Scientists at the Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montréal (IRCM), Canada, a world-renowned biomedical research center, were the first to conduct a trial comparing a dual-hormone artificial pancreas with conventional diabetes treatment using an insulin pump. Their research showed improved glucose levels and lower risks of hypoglycemia. Their results, published Canadian Medical Association Journal, can have a great impact on the treatment of type 1 diabetes by accelerating the development of an external artificial pancreas.

The dual-hormone artificial pancreas tested at the IRCM controls glucose levels by automatically delivering insulin and glucagon, if necessary, based on continuous glucose monitor (CGM) readings and guided by an advanced algorithm.

"Infusion pumps and glucose sensors are already commercially-available, but patients must frequently check the sensor and adjust the pump’s output," says Ahmad Haidar, first author of the study. “To liberate them from this sizable challenge, we needed to find a way for the sensor to talk to the pump directly. So we developed an intelligent dosing algorithm, which is the brain of the system. It can constantly recalculate insulin dosing based on changing glucose levels, in a similar way to the GPS system in a car, which recalculates directions according to traffic or an itinerary change.”

The researchers’ algorithm, which could eventually be integrated as software into a smart phone, receives data from the CGM, calculates the required insulin (and glucagon, if needed) and wirelessly controls the pump to automatically administer the proper doses without intervention by the patient.

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