Treatments

Artificial Pancreas Might Soon Help Patients Better Control Type 1 Diabetes

Diabetes can up-end someone’s life. You become accustomed to a specific way of living. You eat what you want. You don’t get enough exercise, but you’re happy. Or maybe you do eat healthy and exercise a lot — and you’re happier for it. Either way, type 1 diabetes can strike without warning. And that means life changes are in order whether you had adopted healthy living before diagnosis or not. 

It turns out an artificial pancreas might one day soon help you out.

A new clinical trial showed that an artificial pancreas performed better than current treatments for Type 1 diabetes. Not only did the new organs help patients maintain control over their blood sugar during the day, but the artificial pancreas also made getting through the night a lot easier.

It was only a six-month trial for 168 patients with Type 1 diabetes, aged 14 and above, but the controlled system showed promising results so far. 

Boris Kovatchev, the director of the Center for Diabetes Technology at the University of Virginia, said, “This artificial pancreas system has several unique features that improve glucose control beyond what is achievable using traditional methods…In particular, there is a special safety module dedicated to prevention of hypoglycemia, and there is gradually intensified control overnight to achieve near-normal blood sugar levels every morning.”

The study was recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Data related to the study has been forwarded to the FDA for assessment. 

Artificial organs are more common nowadays because of advances in bioprinting (3D-printing using synthetic or biological material). In the future, the need for organ donation will experience a marked decline as we can cheaply and quickly replace organs with artificial ones. More importantly, these artificial organs will be tailored to an individual’s personal needs, potentially outperforming the original.

The hope is that eventually artificial organs, combined with a healthy lifestyle, will allow patients to easily manage diseases — or eliminate them altogether.

Daniela Bruttomesso of the University of Padua in Italy wrote: “These results are impressive and clinically relevant, since it has been shown that for each 10% reduction in the time spent in the glucose target range, the risk of development or progression of retinopathy increases by 64% and the risk of development of microalbuminuria by 40%.”

To put it into perspective, the artificial pancreas resulted in increased average healthy glucose levels in study participants by 2.6 hours a day. Retinopathy refers to potential retinal damage in a patient’s eyes. Microalbuminuria refers to the presence of albumin in the urine. An artificial pancreas might help reduce the chances of these complications.

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