Insulin pumps are not unheard of; most commonly employed for control of blood glucose levels in type 1 diabetes. Conventional pumps deliver only insulin.
Type 1 diabetes is a condition that arises due to loss of beta cells in the pancreas due to an autoimmune reaction. Since beta cells are insulin producing cells, loss of insulin leads to a high glycemic index. The long term sequela include respiratory crisis associated with poor glycemic control, diabetic neuropathy and eye problems that lead to blindness.
The study was led by Doctor Ahmad Haidar, who is a part of the Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montreal (IRCM) and the Division of Experimental Medicine, Department of Medicine at the McGill University . it was published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.
“Our clinical trial was the first to compare these two configurations of the artificial pancreas with the conventional diabetes treatment using an insulin pump. We wanted to determine the usefulness of glucagon in the artificial pancreas, especially to prevent hypoglycemia, which remains the major barrier to reaching glycemic targets,” said Dr. Rabasa-Lhoret, who is a professor at the Department of Nutrition at the University of Montreal and Director of Obesity, Metabolism and Diabetes research clinic at the IRCM.
The artificial pump that these researchers developed contained two essential hormones: insulin and glucagon. Both of which have actions opposite of the other. The artificial pancreas adapt to the body’s need and deliver the amount of insulin that is required to keep high levels of glucose in check. However, if the blood glucose levels fall below the optimum value, the pancreas delivers the second hormone, glucagon which has the potential to combat hypoglycemia. Hence providing greater control over the glycemic index than the available conventional therapies. The researchers are planning to test this invention over a larger scale to eliminate any problems and evaluate the benefits and risks better.
“Our study confirms that both artificial pancreas systems improve glucose control and reduce the risk of hypoglycemia compared to conventional pump therapy. In addition, we found that the dual-hormone artificial pancreas provides additional reduction in hypoglycemia compared to the single-hormone system.” said engineer Ahmad Haidar.