Type 1 diabetes affects 3 million Americans, and there is no known cure. In order to control blood sugar, those that have the disease must use a glucose monitor and an insulin pump. The monitor reads blood sugar levels, and the pump allows the patient release insulin. But there’s a major problem with this treatment, since the monitor and the pump can’t communicate data with each other. So, it’s up to the user to actively monitor blood sugar levels and administer insulin. It’s not perfect, but so far it’s the best we’ve got.
But that hasn’t stopped medical researchers from seeking a better way. Although a cure isn’t here yet, there has been major progress a bionic pancreases. The device would essentially combine the pump and monitor, allowing them to talk to each other. It’s self regulating, with insulin dosage is automatic and based off of blood glucose reading. It represents a huge step in treatment for diabetic patients, and is close to being widely available. In fact, there are at three different bionic-pancreatic projects in place right now. The first, from Medtronic, automatically adjusts insulin levels after analyzing data from a blood glucose monitor. It got FDA approval in December. Another project involves the use of a smartphone; it communicates with a monitor and relies on an algorithm to determine how much insulin should be released. A third device, from Beta Bionics, releases both insulin and glucagon. The company expects to begin trials in 2017.