[IPu] FW: [IP] J&J, charity to start testing artificial pancreas
TRENTON, N.J.-An experimental artificial pancreas will soon be tested in
diabetes patients, potentially sparing them the hormonal disorder's most
dangerous complications and frequent blood sugar checks and insulin
If all goes well, a commercial model could be on the market in four years,
said Aaron Kowalski, research director of the Juvenile Diabetes Research
Foundation's artificial pancreas project.
The device, being developed by the foundation and health care giant Johnson
& Johnson, potentially could help about 6 million diabetics in the U.S.
alone who use insulin, Kowalski said.
It could prevent the life-threatening seizures that can occur when blood
sugar drops too low, as well as blindness, amputations and organ damage
caused by years of too-high blood sugar. And it would end having to track
carbohydrate intake and time spent exercising -- which reduces blood sugar
levels -- and then calculate the insulin doses needed all day long. That's
because the device would constantly measure blood sugar and its computer
would decide to give the patient more insulin.
The research partnership, which also includes glucose monitor maker
<http://finance.boston.com/boston?Page=QUOTE&Ticker=DXCM> DexCom Inc., was
"It's been a goal for 40 years" at the foundation, Kowalski said. "The
pieces of the puzzle are in place ... I'm confident this is going to work."
Still, the partners will have to win approval of the device from the Food
and Drug Administration, which has increased scrutiny of the safety of
experimental new drugs and devices, sometimes turning them down or demanding
additional, time-consuming studies before it will allow them on the market.
The foundation has been working with researchers at major universities in
recent years testing the components of what will be the artificial pancreas
-- different types of insulin pumps, continuous blood glucose monitors and
software -- in various combinations to see what works best, Kowalski said in
an interview Tuesday.
Johnson & Johnson's Animas Corp. unit, which sells the OneTouch Ping insulin
pump, and <http://finance.boston.com/boston?Page=QUOTE&Ticker=DXCM> DexCom
will use data from that research to produce a commercial model. The first
patient testing could begin in less than a year, Kowalski said.
Currently, patients with Type 1, or insulin-dependent diabetes, and many
with advanced Type 2 diabetes must inject themselves with insulin in the
stomach two, three or more times a day to keep their blood sugar in a safe
range. Some patients have an insulin pump tethered to their waist so they
can avoid the injections. But even those patients must calculate how much
insulin they need before each meal, based on how many grams of carbohydrates
they expect to eat.
In Type 1 patients, their immune system is attacking and killing cells in
the pancreas that produce insulin, the hormone that helps the body convert
food into energy. In Type 2 diabetes, which comprises about 85 percent of
cases, the body doesn't make enough insulin or doesn't use it efficiently.
The experimental artificial pancreas would not cure diabetes, which has
mushroomed along with obesity and turned into an epidemic in the U.S. and
other developed countries. But the device could enable patients to control
diabetes much better, preventing complications that can lead to frequent
hospitalizations and sometimes early death.
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