The pancreas plays a key role in a person’s ability to regulate blood sugar. It has small clusters called islets of langerhans that release three different cells:
- Beta Cells: which help to lower blood sugar levels by triggering the release of insulin
- Alpha Cells: that help to raise blood sugar levels by triggering the liver to produce glucose
- Delta Cells: who monitor the beta and alpha cells to ensure there is no over production
The nasty part about the pancreas and these three hormones, however, is that if one system is blocked...the others do not stop.
Picture a traffic jam that just keeps growing and growing.
If the beta cells are destroyed and can’t signal for the release of insulin, the body will not be able to absorb glucose. The body then recognizes that there is no blood sugar being absorbed and stimulates the release of alpha cells. The alpha cells then tell the liver to release more glucose. This causes a big increase in the amount of glucose in the blood stream.
An artificial pancreas is a huge stride in the right direction for drastically reducing the strenuous and relentless responsibilities that people with type 1 diabetes and their caregivers were forced to shoulder the weight of.
How it works
The artificial pancreas monitors blood glucose levels every 5 minutes in order to administer the necessary hormone to keep them in a healthy range.
It works via a sensor that attaches to the body to measure glucose levels under the skin, an insulin pump that is worn externally, and an infusion patch that is connected to the pump via a catheter that administers insulin or glucagon.
The FDA approved the first artificial pancreas in 2016.
With minimal discomfort and countless hours of management returned to the patient, this machine will not only improve the way their diabetes is monitored, it will also improve their own quality of life. Imagine never having a day off of work, and then one day, years later, you are told about the long overdue vacation that you can finally have.
This is not the first time an artificial pancreas has been taken to the board for approval, however.
For years people have been developing prototypes that simply did not fit the requirements made by the FDA. It was not until 2012 that the FDA finally released the requirements that they would need to be met in order to earn approval. The release of these requirements also gave investors more confidence to fund projects which allowed for the creation of more efficient designs.
Better late than never!
Millions around the world have had their lives dictated and controlled by this disease. Every second of every day invested with no room to breathe.
It is our hope that this invention will one day completely remove any responsibility that the patient had in terms of monitoring and maintaining their own blood glucose levels. This device gives them countless hours back to spend with their loved ones, enjoy vacations, go on dates, the possibilities are limitless!
This approval shows that the FDA, the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation, as well as millions around the world are in agreement!