People with type 1 diabetes using a bionic pancreas had greater blood sugar stability than those who used their usual insulin delivery method.
That’s according to a study funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Digestive and Diseases (NIDDK) and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The trial lasted 13 weeks and was conducted at 16 clinical sites across the United States. There were 326 participants, ranging in age from 6 to 79. All had type 1 diabetes and had been using insulin for at least one year.
“The relatively long-term, 13-week trial provides convincing evidence that the bionic pancreas is effective and safe for managing type 1 diabetes,” said Dr. Qin Yang, the medical director at the UCI Health Diabetes Center in California. “This technology represents the closest to the fully automated artificial pancreas for type 1 diabetic patients.”
The researchers randomly assigned participants to two groups. One used a bionic pancreas. The other was a control group receiving an insulin delivery method.
A bionic pancreas is an automated insulin delivery system. It tracks the user’s blood sugar through a continuous glucose monitor. It sends insulin based on the readings, so users receive the amount of insulin needed.
Before using it the first time, the user enters their weight into the system’s dosing software.
The system replaces testing blood sugars via a finger prick, multiple daily injections, operating an insulin pump, and counting carbohydrates. Healthcare professionals do not need to adjust the settings as the system is automated.
The results of the trial included:
The results were similar across the board, no matter the age.
Improvements in blood sugar were most significant in the participants who had higher blood sugar levels at the beginning of the study.
“This equipment would work well for those who prefer minimal involvement, especially for uncontrolled type 1 diabetic patients. The equipment requires minimal patient involvement,” Yang told Healthline.
“Patients will still need to wear an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM),” he added. “They should watch for infusion-set failure and the CGM sensor malfunction. It is also essential that patients do not get a false sense of security as relaxation in lifestyle could potentially worsen diabetes control.”
In the study, the most frequently reported adverse reaction was hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, commonly caused by problems with the insulin pump, not the system. However, there were few reports of hypoglycemia. The small number of reports of either hyper- or hypoglycemia indicates the system is appropriately adjusting to provide the correct insulin dose, researchers said.
“The bionic pancreas is an exciting new technology that provides glucose control for those with type 1 diabetes,” said Leslie Hussey, Ph.D., RN, CNE, an academic residency coordinator in the Nursing Ph.D. Program at the College of Nursing at Walden University in Minnesota.
“This condition is a disease of vigilance where the person needs to carefully monitor blood glucose levels that can swing high or low very easily,” Hussey told Healthline. “Prolonged high blood glucose levels can cause damage to major organs such as the heart, kidneys, eyes, etc. Having tight or good blood sugar control helps prevent high and low blood sugar levels and long-term complications.”
“The bionic pancreas is designed to make managing type 1 diabetes easier,” she continued. “It automatically responds to blood sugar levels when needed and constantly monitors them. Managing blood sugar and keeping the levels within a normal range decreases the incidences of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia and long-term complications.”
A Medtronic 670G bionic pancreas costs between $7,000 and $8,000. The typical out-of-pocket expense for people with insurance coverage is slightly more than $1,000. The user must also pay for the pump and recurring supplies.
Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease.
Monitoring blood sugar and taking insulin is one part of the management. Still, a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a healthy diet, can help a person keep their blood sugar levels where they should be.
Caroline Thomason, a dietician and diabetes educator based in Virginia, offers the following tips for managing type 1 diabetes:
“Carbs play a huge role in blood sugar control, but there are so many other aspects of lifestyle that help us keep blood sugar stable,” Thomason told Healthline. “Don’t forget things like quality sleep, stress management, exercise, general activity throughout the day, and medications that contribute to blood sugar management.”
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Current Version
Oct 5, 2022
Eileen Bailey
Edited By
David Mills
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