First US Patient Tests Artificial Pancreas

by Mark Benson on May 19, 2012

Patient 1 tests artificial pancreas

The first US outpatient trial of the University of Virginia School of Medicine developed artificial pancreas is now underway. The success of this type of device can help the management of the Type 1 diabetes condition not just for this person, for millions of others in the years to come.

The team is headed by Patrick Keith-Hynes PhD together with Boris Kovatchev PhD. They reconfigured a smart phone to become the hand held monitor for the insulin pump attached to the patient for continuous glucose monitoring. The design of the device would allow for automation to work on the proper monitoring and maintenance of blood sugar levels.

Patient 1 for the artificial pancreas is forty year old Justin Wood, a long time Charlottesville VA resident. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes twenty eight years ago. He uses an insulin pump to regulate his blood sugar levels and also has to prick his finger about three to five times a day in order to determine current levels. He also has to be quite careful about his diet, especially the consumption of carbohydrates in order to adjust his insulin levels. According to Wood, “It’s something you think about – either in the back of your mind or the forefront of your mind, almost constantly.”

Upon his approval as Patient 1, Wood checked into a Charlottesville hotel in the evening of April 19 for the two day outpatient trial. His reaction was very positive, saying “The operating interface was very slick and very fast. The extra second or two you save pressing buttons adds up when you have to do it every day.”

The following morning, he used the device to read and balance his blood sugar level automatically. During mealtimes, like his standard insulin pump, he typed in what he ate to be able to balance his blood sugar levels much more quickly. After the two days, he came out very impressed with the artificial pancreas.

Wood intimated, “The device automates a lot of the tracking and monitoring I do now.” He estimates that he can reduce the finger pricking for blood sugar testing from three to five per day to just a couple of times each day. He views the artificial pancreas as a step forward in technology that could change my view and outlook on life.

For the researchers, this was a significant change from previous clinical trials at the UVA where patients were monitored in a controlled environment. The team would continue this work under the auspices of JDRF Artificial Pancreas Project. The study is conducted with the help of the University of California, Santa Barbara, the Montpellier University Hospital in France and the Universities of Padua and Pavia in Italy. The research would continue testing through 2013 at the University of Virginia and other locations, with plans to expand the patient participants to a total of one hundred twenty for the whole trial.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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