Artificial Pancreas Coming Soon to Justin’s Garage?


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Type one diabetes is managed with insulin administered by injection or a pump. Now, researchers are developing what’s being called an artificial pancreas- designed to make monitoring blood glucose levels and delivering insulin a seamless process.

Justin Wood loves all things mechanical. Especially cars.

This time of year, Wood is under the hood doing winter maintenance. Maintenance is a word he’s lived with since age 13 when he was diagnosed with type one diabetes. These days, Wood wears a continuous glucose monitor or CGM.

“The continuous glucose monitor is a sensor and transmitter that I put on my stomach or arms. It communicates with my smart phone and my pump,” said Wood.

The display shows Wood’s blood sugar in five- minute intervals, but the pump needs his intervention to deliver insulin. But what if there was a way to close that loop? Scientists at the University of Virginia are refining an artificial pancreas. It’s not an implantable organ, but an external system that monitors and automatically delivers insulin.

Boris Kovatchev, PhD, Director, Center for Diabetes Technology at the University of Virginia said, “The current system has the sensor and the pump, which is about one-third of the size of a smart phone.”

(Read Full Interview)

“Rather than having two separate devices, they work together. There’s a connection,” said Sue Brown, MD, an Endocrinologist at the University of Virginia.

The UVA researchers developed the “brains” or the algorithm that drives the system which they say will improve blood sugar control and make the condition easier to manage.

“The idea of having the artificial pancreas just takes one responsibility, weight off our heads. Off our shoulders,” said Wood.

For Wood that means less stress and more time with his son Lukas, and greyhound, Auggie.

New results from a phase three trial of the artificial pancreas found the system was more effective than existing treatments at controlling glucose levels in people with type one diabetes, especially during the overnight hours, which is most challenging for people living with the condition.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4669

BACKGROUND: Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults, but it can develop at any age. If you have type 1 diabetes, your pancreas isn’t making insulin or is making very little. Insulin is a hormone that enables blood sugar to enter the cells in your body where it can be used for energy. Without insulin, blood sugar can’t get into cells and builds up in the bloodstream. High blood sugar is damaging to the body and causes many of the symptoms and complications of diabetes.


CGM: Continuous glucose monitoring automatically tracks blood glucose levels, also called blood sugar, throughout the day and night. You can see your glucose level anytime at a glance. You can also review how your glucose changes over a few hours or days to see trends. Seeing glucose levels in real time can help you make more informed decisions throughout the day about how to balance your food, physical activity, and medicines. Researchers are working to make CGMs more accurate and easier to use. But you still need a finger-stick glucose test twice a day to check the accuracy of your CGM against a standard blood glucose meter. With most CGM models, you can’t yet rely on the CGM alone to make treatment decisions. For example, before changing your insulin dose, you must first confirm a CGM reading by doing a finger-stick glucose test.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Boris Kovatchev, PhD, Director of the Center for Diabetes Technology at the University of Virginia talked about the artificial pancreas, “The system has two major components. One is a little sensor the size of a quarter that sits somewhere on the skin. And that sensor has a little needle that sits under the skin. And that needle measures blood sugar levels and sends the blood sugar levels out to a cell phone up to a different device every five minutes essentially. So that is the source of the data, a little sensor that measures the blood sugar levels very frequently. The other component is an insulin pump, which contains a reservoir with insulin. The pump receives the signal from the sensor and delivers insulin. And what the artificial pancreas really is, is the mathematical formula, the algorithm, that determines how much insulin is to be delivered every five minutes.”

(Source: Boris Kovatchev, PhD)


Josh Barney, PR


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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Boris Kovatchev, PhD, Director Center for Diabetes Technology

Read the entire Q&A