Ed Damiano, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University, talks about the Bionic Pancreas which is worn externally and emulates the biologic pancreas with a push/pull mechanism combining insulin and glucogon. Dr. Firas El-Khatib, as a PhD candidate at Boston University under Ed’s guidance, used control theory to create the original algorithm as part of his PhD thesis. Ed and Firas have continued to refine the algoritm so that it can run well on small processors.
When Ed met Steven Russell in 2006, the concept of using glucogon, as a counter-regulatory hormone was very exciting to Steven, an MD/PhD at Joslin Diabetes Center. They decided to collaborate to work quickly toward human clinical trials. They have since done two 40-50 patient hospital-based trials, and are getting ready for a set of out-patient clinical trials in 2013.
There is a big regulatory hurdle to get this device approved for consumer deployment because it can be very dangerous if it does not do the right thing. The device needs to be patient, objective and aware of the dynamics of lows and highs.
The next stage out-patient trial will use a device about the size of an older cell phone to control two pumps, one with insulin and one with glucogon. The system makes decisions completely on its own every five minutes and the result is very smooth and automatic management of blood glucose levels.