Doctors work toward developing artificial pancreas for diabetes patients

Steve Carlton  |  June 28, 2013

Older people who struggle to manage diabetes may soon have a new tool at their disposal. Doctors from the Park Nicollet clinic in the United States have taken a significant step forward on the development of so-called artificial pancreases, which can monitor a patient's blood sugar levels and supply insulin when it becomes necessary, according to The Associated Press.

At the heart of the device is a smart pump which has shown promise in recent trials. Specifically, researchers point to one study that found patients could benefit considerably from the pumps. The trial split participants into two groups: one had ordinary pumps while the other was fitted with pumps designed to stop supplying insulin if blood sugar levels dropped too low. After three months, researchers found the second group experienced substantially fewer low blood sugar episodes. 

"Automating any insulin delivery can be a win for the patient," Francine Kaufman, vice president of global medical affairs in Medtronic's diabetes business, told Bloomberg. "It doesn't take much more than intuition to know that stopping insulin when someone is on their way to being too low is a good thing."

Although the study was focused on people with Type 1 diabetes, it could hold promise for patients from all walks of life, which is especially true for the elderly population. According to Diabetes UK, about 3 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes, while 850,000 others have the condition but have not been diagnosed.