3. Getting closer to an ‘artificial pancreas’Researchers in the field of diabetes management have been working to create a closed-loop system that can measure glucose and inject insulin as needed. The idea is to have the system work as an “artificial pancreas” for people with diabetes, using a combined glucose sensor, control algorithm and an insulin infusion device.
The FDA describes an artificial pancreas as a system of devices that mimics the glucose-regulating the function of a healthy pancreas. Computer-controlled algorithms connect the CGM and insulin infusion pumps to enable continuous communication between the two devices. The system can monitor glucose levels in the body while adjusting insulin delivery to reduce high blood-glucose levels and reduce low blood glucose without the need for patient interference.
Medtronic was one of the first companies to win approval for a hybrid closed-loop system back in 2016. The MiniMed 670G system was the first system of its kind to win clearance globally. While it wasn’t a fully standalone artificial pancreas, the system was one step closer toward developing a fully capable closed-loop system.
Companies in the race to make the first artificial pancreas include Bigfoot Medical, which has a partnership with Abbott. Other companies include Tandem Diabetes, Insulet, Beta Bionics and more.
However, with the hype of closed-loop systems, some people have taken on the task of hacking and DIY-ing their own diabetes devices. The FDA warned in 2019 against using unauthorized devices for diabetes management as it could lead to incorrect insulin dosing, which can be fatal.
There’s also a rise in continuous glucose monitor clearances. Continuous glucose monitors, like the implantable Eversense system, could replace the tedious fingersticks diabetics are tasked with to measure blood glucose levels. Abbott has already seen success with its FreeStyle Libre glucose monitoring system; the company in early 2019 touted real-world data showing reduced prolonged hypoglycemia and better glucose control among system users. – DK