Imagine waking up and glancing down at your smart pump. Your blood sugar is a perfect 100 mg (5.5 mmol). You decide to have pancakes for breakfast. You tap “Large Meal” on the screen and start eating. Your sugars rise up to 180 mg (10 mmol) before coasting gently back down towards normal as you go through your morning. As you go out for a run, you marvel that it’s been a month since you had a very low blood sugar.
This is not a fantasy: it is happening today in the Beacon Hill Study of the Bionic Pancreas.
Dr. Ed Damiano, one of the father’s of the bionic pancreas and a biomedical engineer by training, shared the remarkable progress of the program over the last 10 years at the Friends For Life Conference in Orlando, Florida. The event, hosted by Children With Diabetes, is the largest gathering for people with type 1 diabetes in the world.
So what is the Bionic Pancreas? Damiano explains: “It’s a pumping system, a sensor, and an algorithm that makes a decision every 5 minutes to dose insulin or glucagon to raise or lower blood sugars.” In today’s incarnation, it’s an iPhone 4S that collects data from a Dexcom G4 continuous glucose sensor and tells two Tandem insulin pumps to dose insulin (to lower blood sugar) or glucagon (to raise it). This is an investigational device. The actual device would be a dual chamber smart pump connected to a continuous glucose sensor.