A clinical trial, partly based at the University of Virginia Center for Diabetes Technology, has shown that an artificial pancreas, consisting of a continuous glucose monitor (such as the Dexcom G6) coupled with an insulin pump, can more effectively control blood glucose levels in patients with type 1 diabetes than conventional treatments. The system measures glucose levels continuously, and automatically administers insulin. The results suggest that such closed-loop systems could be a viable option in blood glucose management.
The International Diabetes Closed-Loop Study included 168 patients with type 1 diabetes. The patients used the completely autonomous closed-loop system or a different system which included a continuous glucose monitor and an insulin pump, but did not incorporate automatic insulin delivery.
The artificial pancreas group had blood glucose levels that were within the target range of 70–180 mg/dL significantly more often than the patients without the artificial pancreas. In fact, patients using the artificial pancreas were in the target range by an average of 2.6 hours a day longer than those using a more conventional system, and spent less time with high or low levels of blood glucose.
“This artificial pancreas system has several unique features that improve glucose control beyond what is achievable using traditional methods,” said Boris Kovatchev, a researcher involved in the study. “In particular, there is a special safety module dedicated to the prevention of hypoglycemia, and there is gradually intensified control overnight to achieve near-normal blood sugar levels every morning.”
The autonomous system employs advanced algorithms, that use glucose monitoring data to predict the correct dose of insulin to administer, to accurately control blood glucose levels. “Artificial pancreas systems offer the ability to not only improve glycemic control but also ease the daily burden of blood sugar management that people with type 1 diabetes have to continually navigate,” said Sue A. Brown, another researcher involved in the study. “This study in particular demonstrates tight blood sugar control overnight so a person can wake up with a blood sugar level close to normal most mornings.”
Study in New England Journal of Medicine: Six-Month Randomized, Multicenter Trial of Closed-Loop Control in Type 1 Diabetes