Bionic pancreas may fight diabetes

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

The bionic pancreas can be controlled via iPhone and release the proper hormones when they’re necessary.

It’s tough living with type 1 diabetes, a condition where the body fails to take glucose (sugar) from the blood for energy. The pancreas, a long flat organ behind the stomach, stops producing insulin, the hormone responsible for taking the sweet molecule into cells. Managing this balance between insulin and glucose is a constant struggle for diabetics. Fortunately, there’s a bionic (body-enhancing electronic) pancreas in the works, which may remove the burden of monitoring sugar levels.

Because diabetes causes blood sugar levels to get too high, it can cause serious damage to blood vessels, nerves, and organs. If they drop too low, it can result in blurred vision, confusion, and loss of consciousness.

Individuals who suffer from this illness have to constantly monitor their blood sugar and inject insulin into their bodies. Keeping track of insulin levels can be a hassle, which is where the bionic pancreas steps in.

Essentially, it monitors the blood’s sugar levels via an iPhone app. If the bionic pancreas detects high blood sugar levels, it will release the proper amount of insulin. If the levels drop too low, the pancreas will pump another hormone known as glucagon, which will raise it up. So far, the researchers have tested their invention on patients and it’s worked like a charm. They hope the Food and Drug Administration will approve their gadget by the year 2017.

Featured image courtesy of MassGen Hospital for Children. Image of bionic pancreas diagram courtesy of Boston University.