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Bionic Pancreas Shows Promise for Type 1 Diabetes

Device removes guesswork from insulin therapy, reduces low blood sugar episodes, study finds


"These results are promising," said Aaron Kowalski, vice president of artificial pancreas research for JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).

"And, from the patient experience, it's hard to underestimate the reduction of burden -- not having to make as many decisions, not being awakened in the middle of the night," said Kowalski, who has type 1 diabetes.

He noted that he does have concerns about artificial pancreas systems that rely on glucagon, because if the tubing delivering glucagon were to become blocked, potentially dangerous low blood sugar levels could result.

Russell said there are alarms that will sound if the tubing becomes blocked. And, in the new design for the fully integrated device, both the insulin tube and the glucagon tube will be on the same adhesive patch, so if one comes out, the other will, too.

There were no serious low blood sugar events in either the adults or the teens during the trials.

The next step begins Monday, with expanded outpatient trials. In the meantime, the researchers will continue to work on the fully integrated device, and hope to start clinical trials on that in 18 months or so, according to Damiano.

Both Damiano and Russell believe they'll have their device ready to market in fewer than five years. Damiano is hoping for no longer than 39 months -- that's when his son will head off to college.

Kowalski said: "For many years with the artificial pancreas, people have been saying will this happen? It's not a matter of if anymore, but when. I think we're going to see this moving quickly."

He added that other research teams have also had successes, and are in -- or planning for -- clinical trials.

The findings were presented Sunday at the American Diabetes Association's meeting in San Francisco, and were published online simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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