The US Food and Drug Administration announced its approval of an artificial system of delivering insulin to the body. It is paving the revolution in treatment for people with Type 1 Diabetes or Insulin-Dependent Type 2 Diabetes. This could spell a mountain of difference in the lives of millions, who currently live at the mercy of frequently checking their blood sugars and administering the life-saving hormone in calculated doses. How does this new device save the trouble of multiple pricks?

The burden of insulin administration

In Type 1 Diabetes, the pancreas loses its ability to produce insulin. This hormone is responsible for taking up blood sugar into cells, for production of energy and other survival needs. As patients have to be completely dependent on external administration of insulin, the only way to safely do this is by constantly checking blood glucose levels. It is essential to monitor if they may be on the verge of hypoglycemia, i.e. low blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, each with its collection of life-threatening dangers. This is not only burdensome, but can also be grave. Even sleeping can become anxiety-inducing, as it is when blood sugars drop to their lowest. Hence, the necessity to search for more vigilant and accurate means of meeting insulin needs.

What is the ‘artificial pancreas’?

The artificial pancreas is a closed loop system and consists of two devices. A continuous glucose monitor, which constantly measures the blood sugar levels. An infusion pump, which will deliver insulin according to the calculated requirement. A software program, the control algorithm, ensures that the infusion pump and glucose monitors communicate freely. The device, known as MiniMed 670G, monitors the blood glucose levels every five minutes. It also administers insulin or hold back, when necessary. The device can be manually set to deliver insulin around mealtimes.

While, the existence of artificial pancreas has been around for some time, the FDA only recently approved its use for patients. with Type 1 Diabetes, over the age of 14. Guided by the results of a clinical trial involving 123 people with Type 1 Diabetes, the device was found to have no major side effects. Although approved, it will be undergoing further tests, and analysis regarding usage in the 7-14 age bracket, before being made commercially available.

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