Artificial Pancreas Beats Humans in Type 1 Care

We’d like to believe that humans have the problem-solving tools to handle health issues, but a new study shows that it might be best to turn over blood sugar management to the machines.

Researchers in the UK found that an experimental closed-loop artificial pancreas system did better than humans alone at managing Type 1 diabetes, according to a Reuters report. The closed-loop software, which could be turned on and off at will, included a glucose sensor and insulin pump that sent wireless signals every 12 minutes to adjust how much insulin was administered.

The European research effort conducted two studies to come to this conclusion. In a study of 33 English, German, and Austrian adults, trial participants showed better blood sugar management overall when the technology was activated. However, the difference was most pronounced at night – insulin levels stayed within the 70 mg/180 dl range 59% of the time when the artificial pancreas system was used, compared to 29% of the time without it. The second study, involving 25 English adolescents and younger children, focused exclusively on nighttime blood sugar management. Again, the artificial pancreas beat human blood glucose management hands down – in that study, glucose levels stayed in range 60% of the time with the software active in comparison to just 34% when humans were responsible for the testing and insulin dosing.

Unfortunately, such systems aren’t readily available yet in the commercial marketplace, although pump and continuous glucose monitor makers are inching towards creating them. Still, research results like this might make even the most technophobic consider accepting tech help in managing blood sugar levels.

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Travis served as a staff writer for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation in 2015. Previously, he was a staff writer for Insight, a high school newspaper, as well as a copywriter for The Emersonian, Emerson's yearbook.

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