Artificial Pancreas Ready to Help People with Diabetes by 2018

Artificial Pancreas Device Systems. Image Courtesy: Medtronic Diabetes
Artificial Pancreas Device Systems. Image Courtesy: Medtronic Diabetes
Image Courtesy: Medtronic Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the oldest medical complications man has ever known and it continues to affect millions of people worldwide. It limits the functions of the pancreas which may result in long-term complications, and sometimes, even fatal conditions. It may be acquired through unhealthy lifestyle practices or passed down through generations in the family.

The development of the Artificial Pancreas Device Systems helps patients combat the effects of diabetes by having it mimic the functions of a real pancreas.

The pancreas works by secreting hormones like insulin and glucagon which are important in maintaining the body’s sugar levels. Insulin helps the body break down glucose into usable energy, decreasing its levels in your blood. This works in tandem with glucagon which signals the liver to release glucose into the bloodstream, returning sugar levels back to normal.

Type-1 diabetes happens when the body’s immune system suddenly attacks the pancreas, destroying insulin-producing cells. Type-2, on the other hand, occurs when the pancreas starts losing the ability to produce sufficient amounts of insulin. The body also becomes highly resistant to insulin, making the person unable to dissolve excessive glucose levels in the body. Failure to maintain the correct glucose balance in the body may lead to long-term problems like blindness, kidney failure, or even cardiovascular complications.

The most common and effective treatment for pancreatic diseases is insulin injection. Sometimes patients also inject glucagon to further improve blood glucose regulation. Both compounds can be manufactured in a laboratory.

Administration of the supplements, however, require constant monitoring of the patient’s sugar levels. Aside from handling different devices to monitor the glucose level in the body, the right amount of insulin to be injected also needs to be analyzed first before it can be administered. This process consumes time which can be crucial, depending on the patient’s condition.

The Artificial Pancreas resolves all the issues by aggregating all the needed equipment and form a “closed-loop” system which can be easily worn by the patient at all times. The Artificial Pancreas consists of 4 main parts: the CGM sensor, the CGM receiver, the control algorithm device (CAD), and the insulin pump.

How It Works. Image Courtesy: Medtronic Diabetes
Image Courtesy: Medtronic Diabetes

Engineers and scientists are still addressing issues on its reading accuracy, reliability, and security against threats of hacking before it can be released on the market. The speed of administering the insulin and the type of insulin to use are still subject to further studies. Injected insulin takes at least 30 minutes and as long as 2 hours before its effect kicks in.

Multiple organizations are already partnering with private companies to help them fast-track this solution for commercial use.