JDRF, McGill University look into 'artificial pancreas' improvements

Montreal--Courtesy of Emmanuel Huybrechts CC BY- 2.0

A week after the world’s first hybrid “artificial pancreas” earned FDA approval, JDRF and McGill University are joining forces to investigate ways to improve the platform’s glucose control performance.

The FDA approved Medtronic’s hybrid closed-loop system last week. It mimics the function of a pancreas by measuring a patient’s glucose levels under the skin and delivering insulin via catheter from a pump.

Medtronic’s system delivers insulin, but JDRF Canada granted McGill’s Ahmad Haider $466,450 to investigate the effects of delivering insulin along with pramlintide, a hormone that helps to regulate blood sugar, according to a statement. Pramlintide cuts the rate at which food moves from the stomach to the small intestine and suppresses the release of glucagon, which tells the liver to convert stored glycogen into glucose, helping lower average blood sugar levels and allowing patients to use less insulin.

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Haidar will conduct a trial to determine if it’s viable to use pramlintide in an “artificial pancreas” to boost the platform’s ability to control glucose levels and better emulate an actual pancreas, JDRF said in the statement. The McGill team will look into delivering the hormone between meals and after meals.

While Medtronic’s MiniMed 670 hybrid closed-loop system uses an algorithm to eventually learn a patient’s glucose patterns and insulin needs, it is unable to automatically deliver bolus insulin ahead of mealtimes. The patient must still manually request a bolus dose. The devicemaker is working toward a fully automatic closed-loop system that will address this hurdle.