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Artificial Pancreas for Type 1 Diabetes Moves Closer to Reality
Date:4/14/2010

Newest version effectively controls blood sugar without user involvement

WEDNESDAY, April 14 (HealthDay News) -- The first human trials of the latest design of an artificial pancreas for people with type 1 diabetes found the device worked without causing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Ideally, this type of automated device would finally free people with type 1 diabetes from the insulin injections that many require each day, while relieving them of the constant need to check blood sugar levels and monitor the food they eat accordingly.

The device, produced through a collaboration of experts from Boston University, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, delivers two hormones that are deficient in type 1 diabetes -- insulin, which keeps blood sugar levels from going too high after a meal, and glucagon, a naturally occurring hormone that prevents blood sugar levels from dropping too low.

Because the device doesn't rely on human input, it's called a "closed-loop" system.

"A bi-hormonal closed-loop system is feasible and it can give you good average blood sugar readings," explained one of the device's designers, Edward Damiano, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University, and the father of a son with type 1 diabetes.

"What we've developed is automated decision-making software that uses a mathematical formulation to infuse varying amounts of insulin and glucagon when needed," he explained.

Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the body's immune system -- which normally protects you from infections and other diseases -- turns against healthy cells. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks beta cells in the pancreas, effectively destroying the body's ability to produce insulin and control blood sugar levels.

What many people don't realize, however is that beta cells aren't the only ones damaged by the autoimmune attack. Alpha cells,
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