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Artificial Pancreas-a Boon for Treatment of Diabetes

In the pursuit to bring relief to people suffering from diabetes, researchers have taken the help of technology to develop an ‘artificial pancreas’. Otherwise known as a ‘closed-loop system’, ‘bionic pancreas’, ‘automated insulin delivery system’, an artificial pancreas replaces the function of the ‘real’ pancreas in the body. For the unversed, the pancreas is an endocrine organ located in the abdomen, which is responsible for secreting insulin in the body. Insulin controls the blood sugar levels in our bodies.

The latest development in science, the futuristic technology, known as automated insulin delivery is a promising discovery that can change the lives of diabetic people.

What is an Automated Insulin Delivery system or Artificial Pancreas?

Automated Insulin Delivery system (AIDs) replaces the function of the real pancreas in the body by monitoring the blood glucose levels and delivering an appropriate amount of insulin to keep the sugar levels under check.

AIDs contains an insulin pump and a glucose monitor. The monitor is connected to a receiver. Using sophisticated software, the level of blood sugar and insulin is controlled in the body. This technology replaces the age-old technique of calculating blood sugar levels using the finger-prick technique. Not only this, AIDs is designed to shut off the insulin supply automatically whenever the sugar levels go below normal levels.

Currently, trials are being conducted to go a step ahead and use glucagon along with insulin to control blood sugar levels.

Components of AIDs 

AIDs is not a single device, rather it contains several components that work coherently to increase its efficacy.

  1. Insulin pump:- This is inserted into the skin using a small cannula or an infusion site. It ensures an adequate supply of insulin into the body.
  2. Continuous glucose monitor:- This monitor continuously measures the blood glucose levels using a sensor placed on the skin.
  3. Controller:- A mobile application is used to display blood sugar levels.
  4. Algorithm software:- It processes the blood glucose levels and calculates the amount of insulin to be supplied.

Companies that develop AID systems

  • Medtronic Diabetes:- Medtronic Diabetes is the only company that produces a pump and a glucose monitor. This company launched MiniMed 670 G which became the first-ever FDA- approved system to deliver insulin automatically. It is working on another model that is more automated and personalised with lower target glucose levels.
  • Tandem Diabetes Care:- Tandem Diabetes care launched a touch screen insulin pump in 2020. It is better than the device launched by Medtronic Diabetes as it adjusts the background basal rates. 
  • Omnipid 5 from Insulet Corp:- Insulet Corp launched a wireless insulin pump. It received clearance from the FDA in 2022. It has not been made available to the patients yet.

Should AIDs be considered safe?

There have been several studies that prove the efficacy of AIDs and label it as not only safe but also effective. However, these devices do not provide precise values. Although no serious side effects have been reported yet, out-of-range blood sugar levels like hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia and mild reaction at the site of infusion patch has been noted in some people.

AIDs has not been approved by FDA as the algorithm of the device needs to be corrected. There are many research activities that are being conducted worldwide to expedite the launch of FDA-approved Automated Insulin Delivery systems in the market.

Author

Tuhina Mishra

Dr. Tuhina Mishra has completed her MBBS from Grant Government Medical College in the year 2021. She has published several research papers in Indian as well as international journals. She is a recipient of the ICMR-STS award in the year 2019. She is a staunch believer in making research an integral part of the medical curriculum. She has volunteered in several NGOs, healthcare startups, and awareness programs.

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