Artificial Pancreas Keeps Tight Rein on Blood Sugar

Researchers are reluctant to speculate as to when such a device would become available. Currently, they are working to optimize the best combination of continuous sensors with insulin pumps.

Medtronic has developed a open-loop system that transmits sensor data to an insulin pump but does not include the algorithms to instruct the pump to deploy or withhold insulin infusions.

Other challenges with the device include the accuracy of continuous glucose monitoring due to the difference between blood levels of glucose and interstitial levels. Kowalski says these issues are mitigated by good calibration of devices.

Another hindrance to effective use of an artificial pancreas is compliance, particularly among teenagers.

Marilyn Ritholz of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston has been evaluating which psychosocial factors are associated with better outcomes with use of the artificial pancreas.

Patients who are more devoted to interpreting the information garnered from their devices had better outcomes, as do those who have better support from their spouses, she said at the briefing.

In addition, many patients report concerns about body image when wearing the devices, as it makes them "more aware of their diabetes," Ritholz said. "It makes them feel different. Some report feeling 'somewhat robotic.'"

She added that the success or failure of the device "is as dependent on the human experience as it is on the development of the technology."

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