Dr. Hood Thabit and Dr. Roman Hovorka say an artificial pancreas could be in the market by 2018. The researchers from the Department of Diabetes & Endocrinology at the University of Cambridge authored a paper where they claim a closed-loop system could be ready in only two years.
The researchers analyzed several randomized studies starring different devices which used various methods to control insulin levels in type 1 diabetes patients before reaching the conclusion. The paper is available on-line at the Springer Link, and it was published on June 30, 2016. Type 1 diabetes occurs when a person’s capacity of producing insulin is affected. The latter regulates the amount of sugar in the blood, and its absence could end up in severe damage to many parts of the body, or even death.
A diagnosed person will usually carry with him or her insulin shots which are used to save their lives in the case of a rush of sugar in their bloodstream. However, an excess of insulin could also lead to problems associated with the lack of sugar in the blood.
Fortunately, doctors around the world have been working on more permanent solutions, but it is not that simple. Even though a lot of organic solutions, such as transplants, have proven to be effective, there is not a bullet-proof method that does not depend on the patient’s conscious involvement.
— Engineer Paulo (@WaterSolarWind) July 4, 2016
Several scientists are working on closed-loop systems
To give peace to the patients, specialists around the world are working on a system that replaces the pancreas function in the body by creating a closed-loop cycle. It is rather simple, whatever the device looks, it has to accurately measure the levels of sugar in the blood every five minutes or so. Then, it has to compare the readings to a previously updated database, or a cloud data center and apply an appropriate amount of insulin to the body to avoid problems. But simple does not mean easy.
According to the authors of the study, a patient will need many insulin shots during a day, and the concentration will depend on the readings which vary from an individual to another. Also, the diet and physical activity will play a significant role which means the device has to be very sophisticated when scanning.
Additionally, there is the insulin effect lag. The hormone takes quite some time to satisfactory fill the bloodstream (up to five hours), and what’s more, its effect is also delayed, and it could take up to two hours to start having an effect.
Being a computer, the artificial pancreas would be required to have some security protocols against cyber-attacks which could endanger the life of the bearer and filter information without knowing.
In spite of all these obstacles, both Thabit and Hovorka confidently say that researchers will have something ready for 2018. Some people worry about federal approval, but the US Food and Drug Administration have shown a keen interest in this kind of solutions for diabetes type 1 patients.
— TheRightDoctors (@therightdoctors) July 4, 2016