The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first artificial pancreas device for patients with type 1 diabetes in the country. The alternative pancreas has two purposes: monitoring the person’s blood sugar level, and providing a boost of insulin when needed.
For people with diabetes, their pancreas is unable to provide the body with sufficient insulin when blood sugar levels drop. This is why for years, people with diabetes had to constantly monitor their blood sugar, and administer a shot of insulin themselves as required.
The Medtronic device approved by the FDA, the MiniMed 670G, keeps tabs on a person’s blood sugar level every five minutes, delivering or withholding insulin based on the readings. The FDA has deemed the device useable for people ages 14 and over, with type 1 diabetes.
Many companies are experimenting with this type of self-sustaining technology, with the ultimate goal of creating a device that requires zero input from the user. Beta Bionics is trying to design something similar to this, where the device would release insulin to bring the sugar down, or another hormone called glucagon to bring it back up.
Medtronic is now testing the device to see if it’s workable for people younger than 14. While the device is supposed to improve the user’s quality of life by not consistently monitoring their blood sugar manually, the Medtronic carries some risks. A person may develop hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, or skin irritation, but may be worth the rare risks in order to regulate blood sugar levels easily.