Two teams advance artificial pancreas work in quest for better diabetes care

Two research teams, in separate projects, hope to advance the development of a viable artificial pancreas system through a smartphone app and a wireless sensor placed in blood vessels.

The University of Virginia's Center for Diabetes Technology and a duo from the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota are leading the efforts in a race that already includes many academics and device-industry giants such as Medtronic ($MDT) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ).

First, the UVA team: Researchers there concluded that smartphone technology can help patients control their blood sugar the vast majority of the time. MobiHealthNews reports that the scientists, working with colleagues in California, France and Italy, successfully developed and tested their prototype system (dubbed Diabetes Assistant) on 20 patients with Type 1 diabetes. They installed it on modified Android phones and then linked the system to both Dexcom monitors and Insulet OmniPod insulin pumps, the story notes.

The researchers found that patients effectively controlled the settings, and the overall system worked as intended with a 97.7% success rate. They say the data shows that smartphones are advanced enough to help diabetic patients control their blood sugar in their daily lives through an automated closed-loop system that they can wear easily. The journal Diabetes Care published the details.

In the other effort, a team from the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota that just won some grant money is developing a graphene-based wireless sensor that would reside in blood vessels and perpetually track blood glucose levels. It is a small piece of the quest for an artificial pancreas, but an intriguing step toward developing a total insulin pump/blood glucose monitoring system that could be fully automated.

The Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics funded their project, the agency said, as part of a $2 million overall grant to four research projects focused on diabetes management and treatment.

Artificial pancreas advances have been ongoing. In July, for example, Medtronic announced positive results from a trial involving the company's new sensor-integrated insulin pump, a step in the company's longer push toward developing a fully automated artificial pancreas.

- read the MobiHealthNews story
- here's the UVA paper
- check out the Mayo Clinic/University of Minnesota announcement