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Home Clinical Clinical News The ‘next big thing’ in diabetes: Developing an artificial pancreas

The ‘next big thing’ in diabetes: Developing an artificial pancreas

One of the most hopeful trends in diabetes research is the quest to develop an artificial pancreas, a device that could make the lives of people with diabetes safer, healthier and easier - possibly within the next few years. This is according to leading diabetes specialist Dr Roman Hovorka, Principal Research Specialist at Cambridge University, UK. Speaking to IMN at last week’s “Innovation in Diabetes” conference in Dublin, Dr Hovorka said the technology already exists, but what is needed are trials in outpatients to determine how it works outside hospital.


 

 

“The next step is to move studies of an artifical pancreas from controlled conditions in a hospital setting out to real life,” said Dr Hovorka. Currently he and is team are investigating an overnight  “closed-loop” system, which links continuous glucose measurements to insulin delivery. They want to see whether closed-loop insulin delivery can control overnight blood glucose. “One challenge is that there are currently no dual pumps that can deliver both insulin and glucagon simultaneously. Also we have to work closely with the regulatory authorities as these are a new type of product. If someone was dying one would have to have very advanced solutions, but because in diabetes it is an ongoing condition, the authorities need very very good evidence that these devices provide a benefit over existing systems,” said Dr Hovorka.

 

 

Type 1 is typically harder to manage than type 2 and this treatment will “transform lives”, he added. However, it won’t be suitable for all patients, as the technology needs to be managed and some patients may find this difficult. “It is not a biological cure. From my point of view the technology is there – before the first car was built they had an engine, then a wheel...they just needed to put them together and use it. As we go along the new generation (of devices) will get better and better.” According to Dr Hovorka, perhaps the  best part of the technology is that an artificial pancreas is “there all the time”.  “It can make decisions while a person sleeps. In a not too distant future, people with diabetes may finally be able to rest easy.”

 

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