Researchers Have Developed The First Artificial Pancreas

by Fiona Leishman

Researchers at Imperial College, London have developed the world’s first fully integrated, biologically-inspired artificial pancreas.

The technology has the potential to revolutionise the lives of Type 1 diabetics as it more closely mimics the function of a healthy person’s pancreas than the current options available.

Dr Pantelis Georgiou, the lead researcher on the project at Imperial, said: “Patients have been very receptive to the technology, and that’s why we’re excited about seeing the prospects of its translation.”

Type 1 diabetics currently either inject insulin multiple times each day or use an insulin pump, which delivers insulin via a thin tube under the skin.

With the artificial pancreas, a monitor continuously records blood glucose levels, and the results are fed into a small device that calculates how much insulin the patient needs. This information is then sent to the pump along with a command to give the required level of insulin.

So far, the artificial pancreas has undergone 65 studies, providing 1,000 hours of clinical data.

According to Dr Georgiou: “The biggest challenge is that you are giving patients something which can make their life easier, you put them through the clinical trial, and then you take it away and tell them to go back to their standard therapy.”

The technology is now undergoing the final trials in patients’ homes. If all goes well, it will become commercially available once it passes tests by regulatory authorities, such as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK.

Questions remain as to whether or not this technology will be available for patients on the NHS, but Dr Georgiou is hopeful that the NHS will adapt as they have done with the increased usage of insulin pumps.

“They’re beginning to see the benefits of insulin pumps in terms of improving quality of life. It’s also going to reduce secondary complications, because as we know diabetes is the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure in the developed world. As they start to see those benefits they’ll be more receptive to adapting more advanced technologies.”

Regarding the potential impact this technology will have, Dr Pantelis said: “Imagine not having to worry about injecting, or controlling an insulin pump. Instead you just put something on and going about your daily life with the reassurance that your blood glucose is going to be controlled.”

Featured Image: Dr Pantelis Georgiou, lead researcher on the project
Photo by Fiona Leishman

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