[Last year], Elle, a type 1 normal teenager, walked into Massachusetts General Hospital to start the trial. Doctors fitted her for an artificial pancreas hooked up to a laptop, but in the future, the device will be the size of a cell phone….
Dr. Steven Russell, an instructor at Harvard Medical School stated that, “For three days, the device did the work Elle’s pancreas can no longer do.” “It went very smoothly — her blood sugar control was really very, very good, and we were really very pleased by what we saw with Elle.”
Russell’s research partner, Edward Diamano, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University, says the device learned Elle’s blood sugar patterns and made changes accordingly. “It’s making adjustments every five minutes,” he says.
For that one weekend, Elle didn’t have to draw blood, and she could eat foods she hadn’t eaten in large quantities for four years. “She ate Spaghetti-O’s and grilled cheese and French fries and hamburgers,” her mother, Stefany Shaheen, said. “She ate between 67 and 100 grams of carbs [every meal], and usually she can only eat between 40 and 50.”
Then, after the experiment, Elle had to leave the artificial pancreas behind, and it was back to counting carbs and poking herself every couple of hours. Her mother reset the nighttime alarm clock.
Algorithms determine how much insulin and glucagon the patient needs, and if necessary the patient can manually override the device.
Russell said he hopes that by the fall, the FDA will give him permission to allow adult diabetic patients to leave the building and walk the grounds of the Massachusetts General Hospital campus accompanied by a nurse, eating as they like and using the hospital’s gym.
Then by the summer of 2013, he hopes to give the artificial pancreas to children attending a summer camp. “These are all baby steps towards what we ultimately want to do, which is give them the device and say, ‘Go home and check back with us in a week,’ ” Russell says.
Health-e-Solutions comment: This story illustrates what is problematic about the artificial pancreas: people go back to eating highly-processed junk food, which is really no food at all – just junk. I am afraid the result for some may be sicker people with better blood sugar control. For others, it may be just what the doctor ordered, so to speak.
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