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Smartphone Technology Advances Progress Toward the Development of an Artificial Pancreas for People with Type 1 Diabetes

Researchers used smartphone technology to move a step closer toward developing an artificial pancreas. An artificial pancreas, or a “closed‑loop system,” is technology in which a computer calculates insulin dose based on glucose levels and delivers insulin automatically through an insulin pump with minimal human input. Such technology holds great promise to help people safely achieve recommended levels of blood glucose control, as well as to alleviate an enormous amount of patient burden associated with current self‑management strategies. Significant progress toward developing an artificial pancreas has been achieved in recent years, with researchers testing closed‑loop systems in people in hospital settings using laptop computers, which limits mobility. To realize the promise of this technology, patients need a portable and wearable system so that they can carry out activities of daily life.

In new research, scientists tested whether smart phone technology could replace laptops to control a closed‑loop system. They tested their new technology, called the Diabetes Assistant (DiAs), in 20 people with type 1 diabetes at four sites in the United States and Europe. DiAs (on a smartphone) communicated wirelessly with a communication box, which in turn signaled wirelessly to a continuous glucose monitor (which measures blood glucose levels) and an insulin pump. After participants were given a brief orientation about how to use DiAs, they used the system on their own. Participants stayed in real world settings, such as hotels, and ate whatever they wanted; to ensure that they were safe at all times, they were closely monitored by study personnel.

The study found that the artificial pancreas system had proper system communication 98 percent of the time, which was higher than the goal of 80 percent in this study. The researchers concluded that smartphone technology could be used to run a closed‑loop system, and that DiAs is a promising platform for future study. The technology has already advanced since this study was conducted, and the intermediate device (communication box) is being phased out. This research is an important step forward toward developing a portable, usable, and safe artificial pancreas system, and sets the stage for future clinical trials.


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