The researchers of the Harvard Medical School have just shown the fantastic results of the clinical trial of a bionic pancreas that gives insulin to people with diabetes type 1. And it does it automatically, without them having to do anything.
The device is just as, if not more, effective at managing blood glucose than conventional treatments.
A bionic pancreas to bring down a problem
Respect for timetables, adherence to administration regimes, attention to diet: all problems that make life difficult for a diabetic. To eliminate these problems, which often worsen health conditions, the artificial pancreas automatically administers customized insulin doses based on the patient's medical history and diet.
Living with diabetes: a daily challenge
Parenthesis-explanation: insulin is released from the pancreas, the small gland located between the stomach and the spine, to lower blood sugar and keep it normal. In people with insulin resistance, glucose is not cleared from the blood properly because liver, fat, and muscles do not respond well to insulin signals. This condition can eventually lead to the pancreas no longer being able to synthesize insulin, which is a hallmark of diabetes.
In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas progressively reduces the amount of insulin it produces until it stops producing any. If the amount of glucose in the blood is too high, it can severely damage the body's organs over time.
Advances in science
Before insulin was discovered in the 20s at the University of Toronto, patients with type 1 diabetes rarely lived for more than a year or two.
The discovery of insulin was one of the most important of the 1th century. Today, millions of people worldwide with a diagnosis of type 2 or XNUMX diabetes benefit from it.
However, although it saves many lives, insulin is not easily accepted by patients. Only 61% of diabetics adheres to insulin treatment, which is a serious health problem that often leads to serious complications. And this is where the bionic pancreas comes into play.
The bionic pancreas
The device, about the size of a credit card, is called iLet. It monitors the patient's blood sugar level in real time and without interruption, automatically delivering insulin in optimal doses when needed.
He is a precious companion: take it with you and adapt its dosages to each person's gender, weight and medical history. Guess thanks to what? Exactly. To artificial intelligence, which constantly learns the optimal amount of insulin a patient needs based on their weight and the last meal eaten. Instead of manually entering the number of carbohydrates consumed for each meal, the wearer of this artificial pancreas only needs to specify whether they have just had breakfast, lunch or dinner in an app that interfaces with iLet.
Research and its results
In the new study the results of which were published on the New England Journal of Medicine (I link them to you here), the researchers reported the results of a clinical trial they involved 219 patients with type 1 diabetes. They were asked to wear the bionic pancreas for 13 weeks, after receiving insulin injections for at least a year.
The researchers compared their blood sugar levels with those of 107 patients with type 1 diabetes who, during the same 13 weeks, were treated with conventional methods of administration.
The results? patients who used iLet saw their blood glucose drop from 7,9% to 7,3%, while that of the control group remained around 7,7%. This proves that the device is effective and safe, and it is only the beginning.
In fact, beyond the next further improvements of the artificial pancreas, it will be valuable for patients not to have to constantly think about their condition, for all hours of the day. Even one thing diabetics don't think about (like turning off nighttime alarms) could change that.
The bionic pancreas will reduce the risk of diabetes complications in the long run. It will improve the lives of patients, waiting for (soon) science to miniaturize these devices so as to make the fight against diabetes completely invisible.