Study: Mobile App-Based Artificial Pancreas Boosts Diabetes Control

June 17, 2014 in News

Patients with diabetes who used a mobile application-based artificial pancreas system had healthier blood sugar levels than when they used standard, manual treatments, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Time reports (Sifferlin, Time, 6/16).

Artificial Pancreas Details

The artificial pancreas system includes a continuous glucose monitor and an insulin pump that are configured to work with a control algorithm running on the patient’s iPhone (Comstock, MobiHealthNews, 6/16). The monitor, which is implanted underneath the skin, evaluates patients’ glucose levels and then shares those data with the mobile app (Time, 6/16).

According to MobiHealthNews, patients using the system also calibrated the glucose monitor twice a day with fingerstick glucometers and logged the details of their meals into the iPhone app. The app then used the data provided about the meals and information from the glucose monitor to calculate and automatically dispense insulin and a hormone called glucagon, which insulin pumps typically do not dispense (MobiHealthNews, 6/16). Insulin was dispensed every five minutes.

Study Details

For the study, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston University tested the system on two groups.

One group included 20 adults who wore the glucose monitor while staying at a hotel for five days. Researchers monitored the adults, but the patients were told that they could eat and behave as they wanted, with only a few dietary restrictions (Time, 6/16).

The second group involved 32 adolescents who were participating in summer camp for children with diabetes. The children also participated in the study for five days.

Study Findings

The researchers found that the adult using the artificial pancreas system kept their glucose levels in an acceptable range 79% of the time, compared with only 58% of the time when using their routine insulin monitoring systems.

Similarly, the adolescent group using the artificial pancreas system kept their glucose levels within an acceptable range 76% of the time, compared with 65% when using their usual care methods.

Overall, the study found that the total number of times that patients needed to eat quickly in order to raise their glucose levels was reduced by 50% across both groups (MobiHealthNews, 6/16).

MGH’s Steven Russell, who worked on the studies, said the system “was able to bring everybody into the range that reduces complications,” adding that “no current standard-of-care therapy … could match the results we saw.”

According to NBC News, the researches in their next round of studies will test the system on 10 patients who will be sent home and asked to use the device in a real-world setting without constant supervision (Fox, NBC News, 6/13).

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