There have been rumblings about this for years -- no, for decades -- that eventually someone would develop an artificial pancreas to treat type 1 diabetes. Such a device would read blood sugar levels then issue insulin in doses to bring it back into or close to the normal range without the person taking any action. Let the machine do the difficult work.
Nowadays in this technology-overloaded universe, it doesn't seem that such a device should be that difficult to produce.
But now the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has announced a partnership with Animas Corp., a division of Johnson & Johnson, to develop an automated system to hlep people with type 1 diabetes to control their blood-sugar levels. It represents a first step on the path to what the JDRF describes as "among the most revolutionary advancements in treating type 1 diabetes.
Indeed, an artificial pancreas.
This report got my attention.
Animas produces insulin delivery systems and the JDRF is a global leader in diabetes research. Their partnership is known as the JDRF Artificial Pancrease Project. The contraption it develops with the use of a DexCom continous glucose monitor, or CGM, will have to be tested extensively before receiving approval through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That process could take four years.
JDRF will provide $8 million toward the project over the next three years. In essence, the devicie would combine an insulin pump with a CGMi. Both already are aviailable. All that's required is to come up with a compuiter program or algorith that would allow insulin to be delivered in reaction to elevated blood-glucose readings from the CGM, or discontinued if blood sugar drop to a certain level. The device would be worn by the user with patches under the skin to read blood-sugar levels and deliver insulin.
The user still would manually instruct the pump to deliver insulin at certain times, prior to meals, for example. But the device would be designed to prevent high or low blood-glucose readings around the clock, and take action in more timely fashion to keep readings in or close to the normal range.
I applaud the effort, but wish it would have happened years ago. The insulin pump has been in existence since the mid-1980s and the CGM has been in existence for many years now. Why someone hasnj't programmed them to work together has been a mystery to me, especially considering the sophistications of robotic technology that's been available for years. Carnegie Mellon University has developed an automobile to drive safely on its own through cityscape, so you'd think someone could faiirly easily develop a program to keep blood sugar levels in a normal range.
I'm not complaining, though.
I'm happy the JDRF and Animias are working to develop an artificial pancreas. Let's hope it happens.