Final tests to measure the safety and efficacy of an artificial pancreas are set to take place in early 2016, according to researchers from the University of Virginia Health System.
If successful, the device could enable patients with type 1 diabetes to give up painful finger pricking for good. Designed to oversee the glucose response in the body and adjust insulin delivery as needed, the artificial pancreas would represent a huge advance in medicine and science.
"Our foremost goal is to establish a new diabetes treatment paradigm: the artificial pancreas is not a single-function device; it is an adaptable, wearable network surrounding the patient in a digital treatment ecosystem," said Boris Kovatchev, PhD, director of the UVA Center for Diabetes Technology.
NIH-sponsored trials planned
Two trials will take place this year, which are funded by the National Institutes of Health. In the trials, patients with type 1 diabetes will use the artificial pancreas while researchers measure how well blood-sugar levels are controlled and the patients' potential risk for hypoglycemic episodes.
A news release about the trials explained further how the artificial pancreas works:
At the center of the artificial pancreas platform - known as InControl - is a reconfigured smartphone running advanced algorithms that is linked wirelessly to a blood-sugar monitor and an insulin pump, as well as a remote-monitoring site. People with the artificial pancreas can also access assistance via telemedicine.
In addition to being tested at UVA, the artificial pancreas will also undergo examination by researchers at Harvard, the Mayo Clinic, Stanford, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and a few international universities.
While the technology has been in testing for decades now, the challenge of the artificial pancreas is its reliability in the uncertain realm of the human body, said Francis Doyle III, co-investigator of the study.
“Day to day, hour to hour, the various stresses that impact the human body change the way it responds to insulin-controlling glucose," Doyle said. "Physical stresses, anxiety, hormonal swings will all change that balance. To be able to control for those factors, we need to see longer intervals of data. This is the first trial where we’ll be looking at multi-month intervals of time.”