Sugar Matters
February 11, 2014

Are we closer to the Holy Grail?

Some of you may be aware of a Time Magazine article that came out last year talking about a device, dubbed “the artificial pancreas”. The device is an insulin pump (a small mechanical device that has an insertion area that goes under your skin, and the device pumps small amounts of insulin into your body continuously), plus a glucose sensor, which is another small device that records your blood sugars through a small insertion point under your skin.{{more}} The goal of this combo system is to not only give you insulin around the clock without your needing to give shots, but also to monitor your blood sugars continuously, much like your real pancreas does in a patient without diabetes.

So, is this the answer to all questions about a device that can treat diabetes, a device that is actually like our real pancreas?

I am afraid, not yet.

This system, made by the company Medtronic, is very good. Some of you may never have heard of an insulin pump or a glucose sensor. Both are mechanical devices that you have to buy, and are most often used by people with Type 1 diabetes (although many with Type 2 diabetes do use insulin pumps without the sensors). Insulin pumps are a leap ahead of many routines that use insulin shots, because insulin gets sent into the body in small amounts, minute by minute, very much like how our bodies do in a non-diabetic state. They are not perfect, but they are very impressive when used correctly.

This combination system of a glucose sensor plus insulin pump SOUNDS like it would solve everything, but the truth is that it does not. You, in fact, still have to check your finger sticks a few times a day to make sure the sensor is working properly. Plus, this particular device was made mostly to shut itself off if your blood sugar is going too low. While that is critically important in preventing injury and deaths related to low blood sugars, it does not mean that it keeps your blood sugars in the normal range all the time, which is what your pancreas (when working properly) would do.

So, let’s indeed celebrate all these major steps we are making towards better diabetes management and hopefully one day a cure. BUT know that right now, no matter what you have heard, the miracle device that solves everything does not yet exist.

Until next week, stay safe and healthy Vincies!

Anita Ramsetty, MD

Medical Director Endocrine Care Group

Tel: 843-798-4227