First Artificial Pancreas Approved to Treat Diabetes

By Breanna Draxler | October 2, 2013 1:27 pm
artificial pancreas treats diabetes

The artificial pancreas gadget is even available in purple. Image credit: Medtronic

Good news for diabetics: Last week the FDA approved an artificial pancreas device that could automate the arduous process of blood sugar regulation.

In a person with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin—the hormone responsible for converting sugar into energy. As a result, a person has to carefully monitor her blood sugar levels and regularly inject insulin to keep it under control. Existing pumps can deliver insulin more discreetly than with a syringe, but each dose still has to be programmed manually by the wearer.

During the day, it’s a hassle. At night, it’s a huge risk. A person can’t monitor her blood sugar while sleeping, so levels can drop dangerously low. Researchers around the world have thus been striving to perfect an artificial pancreas to automate insulin regulation.

MiniMed to the Rescue

Researchers at the medical technology company Medtronic came up with an external pump called the MiniMed. It looks like a pager, but without the awkward ’90s obsolescence. The gadget is wirelessly connected to a glucose monitor on the stomach that continually keeps track of a person’s blood sugar levels through a small needle. Based on this data, the MiniMed’s automated insulin delivery system injects the appropriate doses to keep glucose levels stable. That makes it the first real robotic replacement for a pancreas, in that it both detects and regulates blood sugar levels autonomously.

 Sleeping on the Job

The Minimed even has an emergency response function to detect hypoglycemia, which Medtronic says catches low blood sugar episodes with 93 percent accuracy. As described in the Minneapolis Star Tribune,

If a person’s glucose levels reach a worrisome threshold, an alarm will sound with the Medtronic system. If the alarm fails to rouse the slumbering patient, the system will suspend insulin delivery for two hours.

This could one day allow many of the 25 million Americans with diabetes to sleep more soundly. Patients have to be 16 or older to use the MiniMed, but future iterations aim to bring that requirement down to just 2 years of age.

Getting the Go-Ahead

The artificial pancreas’s approval is contingent upon improvements to its pump, which the FDA warned was inaccurately dosing insulin during early tests. But Medtronic says they’re ironing out the issue and, along with the news of the gadget’s conditional approval, announced they will have the improved devices available in the next few weeks. Just in time for the sugarfest that is Halloween.

via Popular Science

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: diabetes, pancreas
  • Joel Shpigel R,Ph.

    FYI- It’s called the MiniMed 530G

  • Suzanne Bourdea

    Could someone that has had pancreatic cancer and doesn’t have a pancreas be a candidate?

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Breanna Draxler

      That’s a good question. The release only describes its use for patients with type I diabetes, so I’m not sure if would work for other pancreatic conditions.

  • reut

    Is it advanced than the VEO pump? I think it’s the 754 minimed pump. If it’s a new model, pls say..

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Breanna Draxler

    You’ve got it, Joel. The particular model is MiniMed 530G. I hope that clears things up for you reut!

    • reut

      thanks, what’s the difference between the 530G and the Veo? Is it a newer pump?

      • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Breanna Draxler

        Yes. If I’m not mistaken, Medtronic switched the name when they released a newer version of the device.

  • Suzanne Bourdea

    I am a type 1 diabetic which resulted from having pancreatic cancer. As I posted before I don’t have a pancreas as all along with not having my spleen, gallbladder, etc. it’s called a whipple. However, I had a total. I do have a purple mini pump from medtronic

  • scott

    How can you get one ? Ive had type1 diabetes for 35 years, im ready to buy!

  • Souel Chatterjee

    does a type 2 diabetic use it?

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