Artificial pancreas

The artificial pancreas is a technology
in development to help people with
diabetes automatically control their
blood glucose level.

It is the lack of insulin production which
is the motivation to develop a
substitute. While the current state of
insulin replacement therapy is
appreciated for its life-saving
capability, the task of manually
managing the blood sugar level with
insulin alone is arduous and

Different approaches under
consideration include:
  • the medical equipment approach
    -- using an insulin pump under
    closed loop control using real-
    time data from a continuous
    blood glucose sensor.
  • the bioengineering approach --
    the development of a bio-
    artificial pancreas consisting of a
    biocompatible sheet of
    encapsulated beta cells. When
    surgically implanted, the islet
    sheet will behave as the
    endocrine pancreas and will be
    viable for years.
  • the gene therapy approach --
    the therapeutic infection of a
    diabetic person by a genetically
    engineered virus which causes a
    DNA change of intestinal cells to
    become insulin-producing cells.

In Europe, Medtronic is conducting  
human clinical trials toward achieving
an artificial pancreas.Trial No:
NCT00598663  and others.
The system is fully automated by
combining Medtronic MiniMed's long-
term glucose sensor and its
implantable insulin pump. A summary
of the project shows promise as well as
some present limitations:

The implantable sensor is inserted into
a neck vein leading to the heart.
The sensor is connected, via an
electrical-type wire under the skin, to
the implantable insulin pump: as blood
sugar levels fluctuate, a signal tells the
pump how much insulin to deliver.
The sensor accurately measured
glucose in 95% of cases when
compared with values obtained by