Becoming Bionic: Technology Takes Over

A glance at what devices and functions the artificial pancreas will entail. (Google)

by Courtney Gale

A recent medical advancement through state of the art technology has sparked hope in the lives of thousands. On September 28th, 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially approved the first bionic pancreas to be deemed trustworthy and safe for Type One Diabetics.

There are currently three known variations of diabetes: type one, type two and gestational. There is no known cure for the variations of diabetes, however there are treatments available.

Type One Diabetes is defined as a chronic illness in which beta islet cells in the pancreas can no longer produce insulin. This results in the individual living with diabetes to be responsible for performing the functions of the pancreas such as; monitoring the blood glucose level, making adjustments in sugar or insulin intake, and administering insulin through injection or insulin pump.  There is no known cure or cause of type one diabetes as of today.

Type two diabetes, the most well-known, is caused by poor diet and lack of exercise. Due to the amount of sugar consumed, the pancreas cannot produce insulin at a fast enough rate to monitor the blood sugar. The media portrays this form of diabetes as a satirical – a self-induced medical condition brought about by people who are deemed “lazy”. Media outlets make jokes about getting diabetes from consuming sugar, unaware of the impact it has on society in regards to the miss education of something so prominent in our world. Type two diabetes is curable with a managed diet and exercise routine.

Gestational Diabetes occurs while a woman is pregnant and can be extremely dangerous to both the mother and the child. Once the child is born, the diabetes relinquishes. This is the least known and understood form of diabetes.

The bionic pancreas was created to self-manage itself, and allow a more convenient lifestyle for type one diabetics. This is by no means a cure, but it is a significant advancement and places researchers in a far better position to discover a cause and eventually a cure!

As of right now, type one diabetics have the option of administering insulin through a syringe injection, an insulin pen (another form of injection), or an insulin pump. The insulin pump consists of a site on the body which is attached to a tube and the insulin pump. The individual living with diabetes has control to administer insulin to eat, and adjust the levels of insulin being received depending on the blood sugar. CGM, or continuous glucose monitors are also available to help diabetics manage their blood sugars. It is a wireless device that consists of a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter is worn on the body and can check blood sugar through the muscle tissue. It then sends the number to the receiver through Bluetooth. The receiver is also paired with an iPhone and can be shared with multiple people.

The bionic pancreas consists of two insulin pumps, a CGM and an iPhone. One insulin pump contains insulin, while the other contains glucagon. Glucagon is a liquid form of sugar that is given when a diabetic’s blood sugar drops to low levels. The CGM will monitor the blood sugar, and depending on the readings, it will alert the correct insulin pump to administer. Each one of these transactions is recorded through an app on the iPhone which can also override the system in the case of a malfunction.

While the diabetic community is beyond thrilled at this significant advancement, many are hesitant to wear 3 bionic devices and be required to constantly be hooked up to these machines. This advancement in biomedical technology not only improve the lives of many, but also spark hope in thousands for further research and developments, as well as evoked hope for a cure for type one diabetes.