The Artificial Pancreas: What it Is and How it can help people with diabetes?
The artificial pancreas, also known as an artificial beta cell, is an experimental treatment that uses small equipment to help people with diabetes.
It maintains the proper levels of glucose in their bloodstream by automatically delivering insulin.
How does it work? An external device connected to an insulin pump provides real-time data about the patient’s blood sugar level, and the pump automatically administers the correct amount of insulin needed to keep it within a normal range.
What Is an Artificial Pancreas?
An artificial pancreas is a device that delivers insulin and glucagon hormones in a continuous fashion to control blood glucose levels without requiring any input from you.
The device checks your blood glucose level frequently, about every five minutes, using an sensor inserted under your skin.
If it determines that your blood sugar level is too high or too low, it automatically releases insulin or glucagon accordingly to bring it back into a normal range.
An artificial pancreas can work as a standalone device or be used in conjunction with an insulin pump.
Some people who use both devices may find they need less overall insulin than they did previously while using just an insulin pump because of how quickly their artificial pancreas responds to changes in their blood sugar levels.
Using Medtronic’s MiniMed 670G System as an Example
The MiniMed 670G System is one of two new continuous glucose monitoring systems that were approved by FDA in March 2016 for use as part of an artificial pancreas.
The system includes a sensor-augmented pump which releases insulin based on readings from a sensor worn on your body.
If you have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you will likely have been using an insulin pump or multiple daily injections to regulate your blood sugar levels.
But both options have some drawbacks, insulin pumps are not always accurate (especially when you first begin using them), while injections require needle sticks and are often painful.
As you probably know, insulin is a hormone that keeps blood sugar levels in check. Produced by pancreas cells (hence its name), insulin helps transport glucose from food into cells, where it is either used as fuel or stored for later use.
When there is more glucose than our bodies need, insulin works to store some of it.
If there is not enough glucose around to begin with, insulin does what it can to keep our systems humming along properly.
Those who don’t produce much of their own insulin (namely type 1 diabetics) rely on medication that mimics natural insulin production as much as possible, this is where an artificial pancreas comes in.
Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) Systems
Most people who have diabetes wear a continuous glucose monitor, or CGM. A CGM is a device about the size of a pager that uses a small sensor inserted just under your skin to measure your glucose levels every few minutes.
The sensor is attached to your body with a small tube called an infusion set, which carries your blood sugar readings back to a receiver you carry in your pocket or on your belt.
CGMs can provide more accurate information about how well you are managing blood sugar than finger-stick tests because they track blood sugar level over time instead of just one point in time.
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Originally published at https://www.nirajhealth.com on May 21, 2023.