Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston University have made major progress on a bionic pancreas for those living with diabetes. On Sunday at the American Diabetes Association, researchers announced that their device had passed a real-world test, monitoring blood sugar and automatically giving insulin (or sugar-boosting drugs) as it became needed.
This new device can be used for Type 1 diabetes. Dr. Steven Russell, a diabetes specialist at Massachusetts General who helped build the bionic pancreas, believes "This would lift that burden off of their shoulders."
The bionic pancreas has three parts: a pump for insulin, another for sugar-raising glucagon, and an iPhone wired to each as a constant glucose monitor. There are three small needles which connect the device to the body. These will go into the stomach, allowing the patient to wear the pancreas in a small pouch or put it into their pants pocket. It's quite discrete and definitely new age — an smartphone wired to your belly, studying your blood.
One of the major advantages of the bionic pancreas was the it was able to improve blood sugar control compared to other monitors and insulin pumps. A natural pancreas can correct low and high blood sugar, but monitors can only correct high blood sugar. The bionic pancreas can do both.
There is still a bit of testing to do. In the next study: Forty adults will use the device for 11 days. Scientists hope to create a smaller bionic pancreas, that combines all three parts into one device.