In a study to evaluate the feasibility of a wearable artificial pancreas system, researchers from the University of Virginia (UVA), Charlottesville, Center for Diabetes Technology, concluded that smartphones work well enough to provide nearly continuous, closed-loop, outpatient control of blood sugar in people with diabetes.

As reported in the journal, Diabetes Care, for this experiment, researchers at UVA as well as at the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, Santa Barbara, CA, University of Padova, Italy, and the University of Montpellier, France, built a prototype system called Diabetes Assistant (DiAs), a wearable ambulatory artificial pancreas platform using a modified Android phone, wirelessly connected to Dexcom continuous glucose monitors and Insulet OmniPod insulin pumps.

Twenty patients with type 1 diabetes were enrolled and a continuous glucose monitoring/pump system was placed on each subject and was connected to DiAs. The patient operated the system via the DiAs user interface in open-loop mode for the first 13 hours, then switched to closed-loop for the remaining 14-42 hours of the study.

The researchers said that this is the first trial in which the subjects were responsible for the oversight of their closed-loop systems, a step that is critical for outpatient deployment of closed-loop control. Although the communication range of the iDex with the insulin pod and DexCom monitor used in the study was only about five inches, subjects were still able to maintain activities of daily living, a necessary first step toward routine outpatient use.

However, they say that further progress depends on an artificial pancreas platform that is based on a readily available, inexpensive, wearable hardware, computationally capable of running closed-loop control algorithms, wirelessly connectable via Bluetooth, which will allow for a range of about 30 feet, for remote monitoring and safe supervision of the participants in outpatient clinical trials.