This week on Health Tech Weekly we bring you another update in the continuing search for better treatments for patients with Type 1 or insulin dependent diabetes. A group of researchers from Boston University and Massachusetts General Hospital are working together to make automated blood glucose control a reality.
It all started with a father whose son is a Type 1 diabetic. The difference between this father and many others around the world is that this particular father is also a biomedical engineer and that gives him the tools to try to come up with a solution to the challenges faced by his son. Ed Damiano knows that his son’s pancreas doesn’t work correctly so it doesn’t release the insulin or glucagon into his system to manage his blood sugar. These are the hormones that regulate blood sugar in a healthy person.
Damiano wondered if there was a way to create a bionic pancreas that would automatically regulate the release of these hormones into his son. Insulin and glucagon pumps exist now but they all require manual input from the user to regulate the release of the medicine based on how much food was consumed or the types of activities the person was going to engage in. What if you could take the manual input out of the loop and let a small super computer monitor and manage blood sugar levels?
Damiano and his team from Boston University and Massachusetts General Hospital came up with a system that uses a dual Insulin/Glucagon pump coupled with a constant blood sugar monitoring implant that communicates with a smart phone. Yep, you heard that right. They created an app for that pancreas. The app reads blood sugar in near real time and sends signals to the pump to release either insulin or glucagon, depending on the reading.
This is an amazing breakthrough! They tested the device on 52 individuals and the system managed their blood sugar levels better than the people did on their own. More studies on a larger patient population are needed but the possibilities are really exciting. This could revolutionize the way that people with diabetes live with their chronic illness, making them have almost completely normal lives with this bionic pancreas. And it all started with one father saying, “What if. . . ?”
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I’m your host Jamie Davis, the Podmedic. I’ll be back soon with more health technology for you. In the meantime, remember that improving health takes small, simple steps that over time all add up to a healthier you. Why don’t you take a healthier step today?