Colorado Researchers help with Artificial Pancreas System for Type I Diabetes Patients

AURORA, Colo. -- If you live with type I diabetes, you spend a lot of time monitoring your blood sugar levels, but a new device and research being done right here in Colorado, could change that. The Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes at CU Anschutz in Aurora has been a hub for clinical trials for the first ever approved artificial pancreas system.

Liam and Marin Ray took part in one of the trials. The 10 and 7-year-old siblings from Denver both live with type I diabetes. “Basically your pancreas doesn`t work anymore, and you don`t make insulin so you have to wear a pump or do shots,” Liam said.

They both wear sensors on their arms and an insulin pump. “It`s a little annoying to live with I, because you have to check it a lot,” he said. The kids and their mom check their numbers every few minutes.

It’s a lot to manage, but a new device called the artificial pancreas could help with that. The device will take information from the sensor and determine if insulin is needed, then administer a dose. “Then the body responds to the insulin dose. The sensor senses it again, and it makes another adjustment,” said Dr. Greg Forlenza with the Barbara Davis Center For Diabetes at CU Anschutz.

He says poorly controlled diabetes can lead to serious problems like kidney disease, the need for dialysis, blindness, heart disease and nerve disease.

The Ray family is very hopeful the artificial pancreas will have a positive impact. “I think it really frees up a lot of time, a lot of space, a lot of stress, especially overnight,” said Melissa Knott, Liam and Marin’s mother.

The first version of the device by Medtronic was approved in the fall and should hit the market later this year, but there are multiple companies working on different versions.

The JDRF has worked hard on this subject as well. Workers there say they expect the devices to be covered by insurance.