A portable biotic bihormonal pancreas that was built with a modified iPhone can correctly regulate blood sugar levels in patients with Type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which a person’s pancreas produces little or no insulin, which is the hormone that lowers blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes usually starts in childhood or young adulthood, and requires that people with the condition keep a constant eye on their blood sugar.
As their insulin levels need to be adjusted manually, instead of being able to rely on a pancreas to automatically do it, patients must give themselves shots of insulin to ensure they have the correct blood sugar levels.
Currently, about one-third of people that have Type 1 diabetes rely on insulin pumps to regulate their blood sugar levels. These automatically give patients injections of insulin by releasing small doses of it at a time. These can be programmed to mimic how a pancreas delivers insulin.
However, insulin pumps do not account for small changes in blood sugar, and they do not give patients glucagon, which is needed by Type 1 diabetes patients. This new device will be able to do both of those things by using two tiny infusion points under the patient’s skin that send information about a patient’s hormonal levels to an iPhone every five minutes to be computed.
“The data address some of the most difficult problems in diabetes management,” said Dr. Kevan Herold, director of the Yale Diabetes Center, who was not involved in the study. “I’d say that the effects are quite significant and noteworthy.”
Patients will also not need to monitor their own blood sugar levels as frequently. Two test trials were done, one using adults and one using teenagers, who typically need twice the amount of insulin injections as adults do.
It was found that teens only needed to manually intervene only 0.8 times a day, compared to 1.6 times a day if they were using insulin pumps. In adults, in greatly reduced the chance of glucose levels going too low.
Although the tests showed positive results, more tests and more work needs to be done to ensure the safety of the devices. The researchers involved in the project hope that within a few short years the device will be ready to be marketed.