Diabetes? There’s An App for That.
A bionic pancreas developed by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Boston University could help normalize life for diabetics. The newly-developed pancreas automatically monitors blood sugar using a wireless glucose monitor that sends a signal to an iPhone app every five minutes. The app determines how much insulin should be injected via a pump to make blood sugar levels decrease and how much glucagon to pump to increase blood sugar levels.
In a study appearing online in the New England Journal of Medicine it was found that 52 subjects that used the device for five days had healthier blood sugar levels compared to when they checked their own blood sugar levels and determined how much insulin to inject.
Dr. Steven Russell, an endocrinologist at MGH who led the study said in the Boston Globe, “We encouraged them to eat whatever they wanted while they wore the bionic pancreas. They went on a diabetic vacation, eating ice cream, candy bars, and other things they normally wouldn’t eat – like taking a sports car and seeing what it can do.”
The artificial pancreas is not a cure, it is just a way to automatically monitor and control glucose levels without the diabetic having to constantly think about managing their condition every minute of the day. It could also free diabetics and their parents from waking in the middle of the night to make sure that their blood sugar hasn’t fallen to dangerously low levels that can cause seizures, a coma or death.
Still, much more testing needs to done before the bionic pancreas can be trusted enough to be put into widespread use. A large multi-center study is beginning this month. “Quite a few things need to be addressed” said Dr. David Harlan, chief of the diabetes division at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, MA. “The chances of the pump failing with two different hormone infusions are great and it doesn’t remove constant diligence from lives of people with diabetes.”