“Smart Pump” for Diabetes is Step Toward Artificial Pancreas

By Breanna Draxler | June 24, 2013 3:32 pm
insulin pump used to treat type 1 diabetes

Current insulin pump technology. Image courtesy of Hdc Photo/Shutterstock.

For those with type 1 diabetes, low blood sugar can translate to a lack of energy during the day. But if it occurs at night, when a person is sleeping, low blood sugar can lead to a coma, seizure, or even death. An artificial pancreas would not only eliminate the need for regular insulin shots during the day but also avoid dangerous episodes of nighttime hypoglycemia. A recent clinical trial put an early version of such a device to the test.

Researchers equipped 247 diabetic participants with sensors that constantly monitored their blood sugar levels. Half of the participants wore normal insulin pumps to supply a steady, low dose of insulin. The other half used the new “smart pumps,” which are programmed to shut off the insulin supply for two hours whenever a person’s blood-sugar fell to a certain level.

During the three-month trial, participants with smart pumps experienced a third fewer episodes of hypoglycemia than those with the regular pumps. And the number of cases where blood-sugar levels dropped low enough to need medical attention were non-existent in the smart pump group. Four people with the regular pump experienced such an episode.

The smart pump is already being produced by a Minneapolis-based company called Medtronic, and is available in European markets. It is currently under review by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States, according to CBS.

The smart pump’s automatic shut-off feature brings researchers closer to their goal of producing an artificial pancreas that could one day eliminate diabetics’ blood-sugar highs and lows by precisely tracking glucose levels and automatically delivering specific doses of insulin as needed. The results of the company-sponsored study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine over the weekend and presented Saturday at the American Diabetes Association conference in Chicago.

The artificial pancreas is mainly aimed at treating type 1 diabetes, which is most often found in children and makes up about 5 percent of the 26 million cases of diabetes in the United States. Still, the device’s ability to regulate insulin levels could prove helpful for the millions of people with type 2 as well.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
  • Nina Darguzis

    This is a great step in technology. As much as I cannot use the insulin pump due to complications, if they were to perfect and artificial pancreas I’d be lining up.

  • Felix Turner

    As a type-1 diabetic, I’m very excited for the prospects of insulin pumps automatically linked to BG monitors. However,the big problem with this tech is that it can easily kill you. If the monitor gets miscalibrated and incorrectly detects high BG (which is not uncommon with current BG monitors), it will keep pumping extra insulin, potentially causing hypoglycemia while you sleep. The current solution of a separate pump and monitor requires a manual step to actually pump the bolus, which removes this risk at the cost of being a lot more inconvenient. Presumably the new tech has some clever solution to this problem.

  • Andrew Cader

    Please can I have one……..am sick and tired of highs and lows.

  • http://www.libertynewspost.com/ Liberty Newspost

    I wonder when the Mafia, I mean the FDA, will approve the pump that is already being used in European Markets? I expect after the pharmaceutical companies come to some sort of “Agreement”


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Briefing you on the must-know news and trending topics in science and technology today.

See More

Collapse bottom bar

Login to your Account

E-mail address:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »