A new report states that patients with Type 1 diabetes may be able to receive an artificial pancreas as early as 2018. This artificial pancreas will constantly monitor blood glucose levels and send insulin to the body when needed, which will eliminate the need for manual insulin injections.
Patients with Type 1 Diabetes are recommended to inject themselves with insulin twice per day. However, this does not account for the varying levels of glucose the body might need throughout the day. Additionally, the amount of insulin needed can vary from day-to-day, depending on activity levels, menstruation, and what the person had to eat that day. This means that most diabetes patients are forced to constantly monitor their insulin levels to ensure accurate dosing.
The artificial pancreas would mean an end to those days, which is surely something to look forward to for many Type 1 Diabetes patients.
Doctors also say this is a much-needed alternative because many of the other options available require patients to undergo major surgery. Drs. Roman Hovorka and Hood Thabit of the University of Cambridge explain why the artificial pancreas would be so groundbreaking, as reported by EurekAlert:
“There are alternatives to the artificial pancreas, with improvements in technology in both whole pancreas transplantation and also transplants of just the beta cells from the pancreas which produce insulin.
However, recipients of these transplants require drugs to suppress their immune systems just as in other organ transplants. In the case of whole pancreas transplantation, major surgery is required; and in beta cell islet transplantation, the body’s immune system can still attack the transplanted cells and kill off a large proportion of them (80% in some cases). The artificial pancreas of course avoids the need for major surgery and immunosuppressant drugs.”
Although results currently look promising, the artificial pancreas is still undergoing clinical trial for efficacy and side effects. It could be approved by the FDA as early as next year and the devices may reach mainstream clinics as early as the end of 2018.
Hovorka and Thabit state of patients who have used it so far:
“In trials to date, users have been positive about how use of an artificial pancreas gives them ‘time off’ or a ‘holiday’ from their diabetes management, since the system is managing their blood sugar effectively without the need for constant monitoring by the user.”
Of course there is always the ethical issue of replacing our naturally-given body with artificial alternative, moving toward an AI-esque world. What do you think?
Anna Scanlon is an author of YA and historical fiction and a PhD student at the University of Leicester where she is finishing her degree in modern history.