Study shows artificial pancreas improves treatment for Type 1 diabetes

External artificial pancreas--Courtesy of IRCM

In what is being called a first-of-its-kind study, Canadian researchers confirmed that an external artificial pancreas was better at treating Type 1 diabetes than other alternative treatments.

The study, conducted by the IRCM and the University of Montreal and published in the journal The Lancet, found that use of an external artificial pancreas improved glucose control and reduced the risk of hypoglycemia when compared with other treatments. The dual-hormone artificial pancreas provided additional reduction in hypoglycemia compared to the single hormone system, they said.

The external artificial pancreas is an automated system that simulates the human pancreas by continuously adapting insulin delivery based on changes in glucose levels, the researchers said in a press release. Two configurations exist: the single-hormone artificial pancreas that delivers insulin alone and the dual-hormone artificial pancreas that delivers both insulin and glucagon, they said. Though insulin lowers blood glucose levels, glucagon has the opposite effect and raises glucose levels.

"Our clinical trial was the first to compare these two configurations of the artificial pancreas with the conventional diabetes treatment using an insulin pump," Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret, one of the lead researchers, said in a statement. "We wanted to determine the usefulness of glucagon in the artificial pancreas, especially to prevent hypoglycemia, which remains the major barrier to reaching glycemic targets."

The study was underwritten, in part, by Medtronic ($MDT), which is a dominant medical device player in the diabetes market.

Last month, the company's CEO, Omar Ishrak, said Medtronic's MiniMed 530G system with the Enlite sensor was driving revenue growth both in insulin pumps and CGM (continuous glucose management). He said the MiniMed 530G system, which automatically stops insulin delivery when glucose levels fall below a predetermined threshold, is an important step toward Medtronic's goal of developing a fully automated artificial pancreas.

According to Canadian Diabetes Association statistics cited by the researchers, there are about 285 million people worldwide affected by diabetes, of which some 10% have Type 1 diabetes. The association says roughly 7 million people develop diabetes each year, and the total number of people with diabetes is expected to reach 438 million by 2030.

- read the release
- see The Lancet article

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