Skip to content

    Diabetes Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Artificial Pancreas on the Horizon

    An artificial pancreas could revolutionize the treatment of diabetes, and it may only be a few years away.

    WebMD Feature

    For millions of people with diabetes worldwide, life is a series of fingersticks, injections, and surges and dips in blood sugar levels. But with its promise of automatically regulating a person's blood sugar, the artificial pancreas could change all that.

    "The artificial pancreas will revolutionize the treatment of diabetes," says Eric Renard, MD, PhD, professor of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at Montpellier Medical School in Montpellier, France. "It will prevent diabetes complications, [which include blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart disease, and death]. And quality of life will be tremendously improved as people won't have to be constantly pricking and monitoring themselves," says Renard, who is leading the first clinical trial of the device.

    Recommended Related to Diabetes

    Women, Sex, and Diabetes

    When most people hear the words “diabetes and sexual dysfunction," they automatically think it's the man's problem. But women with diabetes can also have sexual problems related to their blood sugar levels. For diabetes educator Ann Albright, PhD, RD, that’s not only a medical fact; it’s a fact of life. Living with type 1 diabetes for 41 years, Albright says that when glucose isn’t under good control, a woman’s sex life can pay the price. “It’s not diabetes per se that harms your intimate life...

    Read the Women, Sex, and Diabetes article > >

    The artificial pancreas is designed to help patients with type 1 diabetes maintain blood sugar levels within the normal range -- critical for preventing diabetes complications, he explains.

    The man-made organ has three parts, all of which have to work perfectly in synch: a sensor that continually monitors blood or tissue sugar levels, an insulin infusion pump, and a computer algorithm that controls the delivery of insulin minute by minute based on measured blood sugar, says Jeffrey I. Joseph, DO, director of the Artificial Pancreas Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. The sensor relays information to the pump, which then dispenses just the right amount of insulin.

    A fully automated and integrated device probably won't be ready for prime time for at least four years -- maybe more. But "we're getting there one step at a time," Joseph says, with researchers worldwide testing various components of the system alone or in combination.

    Insulin Pump a Step Forward

    Furthest along in development is the insulin pump, which is worn on a belt or totally implanted in the body. The external pump is already used by thousands of people with diabetes worldwide, and the implantable pump is approved in Europe and is in clinical trials in the U.S. Either can be used in an artificial pancreas.

    The development of the implantable pump was a major step forward, Renard says, with studies showing significant advantages over multiple daily injections of insulin in controlling blood sugar levels and improving quality of life.

    1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

    Today on WebMD

    Diabetic tools
    Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
    woman flexing muscles
    10 strength training exercises.
     
    Blood sugar test
    12 practical tips.
    Tom Hanks
    Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
     
    kenneth fujioka, md
    Video
    Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
    Article
     
    Middle aged person
    Tool
    jennie brand miller
    Video
     

    Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
    Article
    type 2 diabetes
    Slideshow
     
    food fitness planner
    Tool
    feet
    Slideshow