Building a Better Pancreas

One goal of current diabetes research is to find a way to “close the loop” on glucose monitoring and insulin treatment. This means a device that will monitor glucose levels and deliver insulin in response without any required operator intervention. Basically, this device would act as an artificial pancreas.

Half of the technology already exists in the continuous glucose monitoring systems (CGMS) that have hit the market in recent years. The trick is to get the CGMS to do some complex calculations that translate current glucose readings into an accurate insulin dose, and then relay the dosage information to an insulin pump to carry out delivery. Unfortunately, many of today's CGMS systems still have a wide margin of accuracy error, so further refinement of the technology and the mathematical algorhithms that program it must be done before CGMS is ready for closed-loop prime time.

One closed-loop system currently being used in JDRF-funded research is the Medtronic MiniMed external Physiologic Insulin Delivery device (or ePID). This system links an implantable long-term glucose sensor with an implantable insulin pump. The sensor continuously monitors blood glucose levels, and then transmits the information to the insulin pump, which in turn infuses the correct amount of insulin.

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