Artificial pancreas: Closed-loop glucometer/insulin-pump

The advent of a closed-loop system to autonomously regulate a diabetic's blood glucose is getting closer to being in reach, potentially only a few years away.  Termed an "artificial pancreas" for its ability to mimick the blood glucose regulation provided by a natural pancreas, the system would have a major impact on the health and lifestyle of Type 1 diabetics, whose own pancreases have lost the ability to produce insulin and thereby regulate blood glucose levels.

This month Medtronic received FDA approval for its Paradigm system, which provides an integrated blood glucose monitor and insulin pump.  However, the system is not autonomous, since it requires patient or physician input to set insulin dosage from the pump.  The system is a step in the direction toward an autonomous system, the technology for which many experts believe is already available today.  What is only needed is a validated system that performs, via algorithm or other intelligent biofeedback, a closed loop regulation of blood glucose minimizing both hypo- and hyperglycemia.

To that end, as reported in the April 14 issue of Science Translational Medicine by co-author and endocrinologist Steven Russell, researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have demonstrated that a closed loop system integrating an algorithm in software to automatically regulate insulin dosage based on blood glucose readings was effective in managing the blood glucose of 11 diabetics over a 27 hour period.  During this time, the patients consumed three high-carbohydrate meals, challenging the integrated system to respond.

Given the status of technology development, we believe strongly that an artificial pancreas represents the best short-term solution to the major challenge of diabetes management, which is the demands placed on the patient for constant finger-pricks, blood glucose measurements and insulin injections to maintain healthy blood glucose levels.  As we also noted in our prior post, we believe that it is also highly likely that the long-term solution will be in the form of stem cell or other islet cell transplant technology to restore the normal pancreatic function in Type 1 diabetics, but such a milestone faces clinical, technical and economic hurdles far more challenging than that of the artificial pancreas.

See the forthcoming MedMarket Diligence report #D510 on the Worldwide Diabetes Management Market.

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