Health Watch: Artificial pancreas can help diabetics manage condition

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Justin Wood loves all things mechanical. Especially cars.

This time of year, Justin's under the hood doing winter maintenance. Maintenance is a word he's lived with since age 13 when he was diagnosed with type one diabetes.

Justin wears a continuous glucose monitor, or CGM.

"The continuous glucose monitor is a sensor and transmitter that I put on my stomach or arms," Wood said. "It communicates with my smartphone and my pump."

The display shows Justin's blood sugar in five minute intervals, but the pump needs his intervention to deliver insulin. But what if there was a way to close that loop?

Scientists are refining an artificial pancreas. It's not an implantable organ, but an external system that monitors and automatically delivers insulin.

"The current system has the sensor and the pump, which is about one-third of the size of a smartphone," says Boris Kovatchev, PhD.

"Rather than having two separate devices, they work together," says Endocrinologist Sue Brown. "There's a connection."

The researchers developed the "brains" or the algorithm that drives the system, which they say will improve blood sugar control and make the condition easier to manage.

"The idea of having the artificial pancreas just takes one responsibility, a weight off our heads," Wood said. "Off our shoulders."

For Justin, that means less stress and more time with his son Lukas, and greyhound, Auggie.

New results in a study found the artificial pancreas system was more effective than existing treatments at controlling glucose levels in people with Type-1 diabetes.
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