Health Team

Researchers working on artificial pancreas

Posted May 26, 2010 4:10 p.m. EDT
Updated May 26, 2010 7:34 p.m. EDT

When the body works as it should, the pancreas produces the right amount of insulin right when the body needs it.

With Type 1 diabetes, however, the pancreas can't produce insulin, leaving diabetics to rely on glucose monitors and insulin pumps to maintain blood sugar levels and deliver insulin to the body.

Researchers and engineers have been working to create an "artificial pancreas" that combines those technologies into one.

Unlike other methods of helping to maintain glucose levels, the artificial pancreas does not depend on users to make decisions.

There are several shortcomings to the current methods of monitoring glucose levels.

For example, even 10 pricks of the finger throughout the day can only provide a snapshot of a person's blood sugar level at any moment.

It doesn't provide a complete picture, like showing a downward or upward trend in between meals.

People also don't check their blood sugar while they sleep or when they are engaged in physical activity.

An artificial pancreas could monitor glucose levels all the time, just like a healthy pancreas.

A fail-safe device is still in the development phase.

"Our hope is that we'll get a product to the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) within four years," said Larry Soler, a vice president of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.