There has been a lot of news lately in the diabetes world surrounding the "Bionic Pancreas" or "Artificial Pancreas" and the time frame of it's much anticipated release.
Some of you might be wondering:
What is an Artificial Pancreas (Bionic Pancreas)?
The Artificial Pancreas is essentially two Insulin Pumps. One that administers Insulin and the other administers Glucagon. Glucagon is what is currently used in extreme low blood sugar situations to raise blood sugar levels. Now, this is the part that makes this system revolutionary....these two pumps are controlled by a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) this relays the information to the pumps and the pumps automatically do the work and calculations and decide whether the patient needs insulin or glucagon and what that amount will be. No more counting carbs, no more multiple finger sticks. You just eat, exercise, and sleep knowing that the system is doing all of the work for you! This is as close as we can currently get to mimicking a healthy functioning pancreas!
What are the downsides of having an Artificial Pancreas?
J will have to wear THREE sites. One for the insulin pump, one for the glucagon pump and one for the CGM. That is a lot for a child who doesn't have much "real-estate" available for all of those sites. Another downfall to the system is that J will have to change his Glucagon site daily. This is a new therapy and there isn't a formula currently on the market that is viable for more than a day, but there are formulas in the works that could potentially change this status. Lastly, you are completely relying on technology to keep your blood sugars in range 24/7. For a lot of diabetics and parents this can be a difficult thing to imagine. We spend 24/7 monitoring and making life saving decisions. What will our lives be like when we no longer have to have that worry or stress?
I personally can't wait for the day that this comes to market. This will be an amazing step forward for J's health and future. He will have the freedom to just be a kid and eat whatever he wants whenever he wants without having the roller coaster spikes and drops in his blood sugar and feeling terrible as a result of it. When he is sick he won't have to feel worse because his blood sugars are also causing symptoms and worry that he will have to be hospitalized. He won't have to miss out on things because his blood sugar needs to be checked, or "fixed". He won't have to worry about the long term complications that blood sugar fluctuations can cause. Most importantly, he won't have the worry that he won't wake up in the morning because his blood sugar dropped too low during his sleep and he couldn't wake up to fix it.
Will there be complications with this system? Absolutely! After all this is not a pancreas. They are devices that can fail and will fail at times. However, it will fail a lot less often than we as humans currently do! Will those problems be worth the peace of mind and freedom that the system gives, hell yes! We have failed sites and malfunctions with his insulin pump now, but on top of that we also have to battle HIGH and LOW blood sugars daily and the complications that come along with those.
This is the first step forward to creating a life for diabetics that they could have never imagined having! This is a piece of freedom that every single T1D lost at their diagnosis. Until we have a biological cure for Type 1 Diabetes we just have to keep hoping and praying for medical advances like these. These advances will help my son to live to see the day when he can say that he "used to have Type 1 Diabetes."
So for now, we just get to hurry up and wait!
For more information about the Artificial and Bionic Pancreas updates you can look at these links :)