Could an artificial pancreas one day be a reality?

New clinical trials have been launched to investigate the use of an artificial pancreas in type 1 diabetes. The artificial pancreas is a device that can administer insulin automatically and regulate blood sugar levels.

Why well-controlled blood sugar levels are important

According to the Express, many British people cannot tell the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1, the type that can be inherited, is less common and often affects children and young adults, and it is people with this type of diabetes who need to be able to control their blood sugar effectively. When blood sugar levels are well controlled from an early stage, diabetes sufferers are less likely to experience complications such as eye problems and kidney and nerve diseases.

The studies

Four trials have been funded by the government in the US to look at different forms of artificial pancreas. These have been designed to regulate blood sugar levels in people with type 1 diabetes and to take the place of a pancreas that functions normally.

Factors such as efficacy, user friendliness, safety, cost and the physical and emotional health of the participants will be examined in the studies.

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Dr Boris Kovatchev and Dr Stacey Anderson from the University of Virginia are recruiting 240 people from age 14 upwards to take part in a trial using smartphones to test a system known as inControl, which automatically delivers insulin. Sites across the US, the Netherlands, France and Italy are included in this study.

The University of Cambridge is conducting a year-long study led by Dr Roman Hovorka. 130 young people will be enrolled to test a system that also includes a smartphone. Clinical trials that pay, which can be found through research organisations such as, are a useful way of supplementing their income for many people.

Two more trials, one commencing in late 2017 and the other in mid-2018, are also planned.
It is hoped that the development of a fully-automated system to monitor blood sugar levels and deliver the insulin needed will improve the quality of life for many people with diabetes who currently must test their blood sugar regularly and administer insulin. Better control also reduces the risk of complications of diabetes, such as nerve problems, eye diseases and kidney diseases.