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An artificial pancreas could help diabetics control their blood sugar levels

Why it matters to you

An artificial pancreas and smartphone algorithm could be key to treating diabetes in the future. There has been quite a bit of good news lately for diabetes patients. From a stem cell-based implant that could serve as a functional cure[1] for some folks to a glucose monitoring device that obviates the need for finger pricks[2], science and technology are helping millions of folks worldwide conquer the disease.

Now, the latest innovation comes in the form of an artificial pancreas, which allows patients to control their insulin levels with a smartphone. A total of 30 patients with Type 1 diabetes participated in a 12-week trial of the novel system and researchers found “significant improvements in two key measures of well-being in people living with Type 1 diabetes,” namely decreased hemoglobin A1c and reduced time spent in hypoglycemia. Thanks to the combination of the man-made pancreas and smartphone algorithms, patients were more easily able to monitor their blood glucose levels and administer insulin either using a needle or infusion pump.

Per a Harvard Universtiy release[3] detailing the trial, “The artificial pancreas is designed to mimic a healthy person’s glucose regulating function. The closed-loop system consists of an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor placed under the user’s skin.” In addition, the system includes an algorithm within a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, which determines how much insulin the pump ought to deliver. This amount is determined by a number of variables, like meals consumed, physical activity, sleep, stress, and metabolism.

The success of the trial was made even more exciting by the fact that participants were folks who were already vigilant about monitoring themselves, and had “very good HbA1c levels before the trial.” Even so, using the artificial pancreas, researchers were able to reduce these levels even further.

“This is by far the longest duration trial we have conducted, and it is a testament to the robustness of the algorithm that our key performance indices were maintained from our earlier, shorter trials,” said Francis Doyle[4], a Harvard professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said.

While the system has yet to reach the market, results like these certainly bode well for the future viability of the project.


  1. ^ functional cure (www.digitaltrends.com)
  2. ^ finger pricks (www.digitaltrends.com)
  3. ^ Harvard Universtiy release (www.seas.harvard.edu)
  4. ^ Francis Doyle (care.diabetesjournals.org)

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