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Closing the Loop
Progressive technology aims to mimic a real pancreas

Photo by Matt Haas

May 2016

A world without Type 1 diabetes. That’s the vision of JDRF, formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. To date, it’s the only known charitable organization supporting the development of the artificial pancreas system. According to the board president of JDRF’s southeastern Wisconsin chapter, Dr. Tammy Ferry, doctors and researchers from all over the world are progressing toward technology that is fully automated when it comes to treating Type 1 diabetes.

"The goal is to basically mimic a real pancreas," Ferry explains.

The system acts like a brain of sorts, allowing the continuous glucose monitor to talk to the insulin/pump producer. This helps people with Type 1 diabetes automatically control their blood glucose level — a luxury granting them the ability to live relatively normal lives.

"As we get close to more advanced technology, we are able to move it out of hospitals into real-world settings," Ferry says.

At any given time, there are approximately 300 people in the U.S. using the artificial pancreas system in clinical trials. Currently on the market is a system by Medtronic called the Low Glucose Suspend MiniMed 530G, which detects low glucose levels and suspends insulin when necessary.

"We’re getting to the point where smartphone technology can now be incorporated into the equipment design," explains Ferry.

In Europe, an artificial pancreas system called Predictive Low Glucose Suspend MiniMed 640G is the next level of care for patients. The technology actually anticipates and predicts a drop in glucose and makes adjustments accordingly. According to Ferry, this system is moving toward approval in the U.S. and could be available as early as 2017.

Ferry says technology is advancing so rapidly that the life expectancy of someone with Type 1 diabetes is now about the same as someone without the disease. m



This story ran in the May 2016 issue of: