Category Archives: bionic pancreas

The Bionic Pancreas Moves Closer to Reality

For the past year or so we have been hearing clips about the Bionic Pancreas Project.  I was lucky enough to have heard  Dr. Ed Damiano present about his  work at the CWD Friends for Life Conference in Toronto.  It was the first time that I was truly excited by what was happening in diabetes research.

This was a project that was privately funded and motivated by a father’s love. There was no political agenda to hold things up.  There was only his passion and desire to see his son safe when he could no longer be there to watch him at night.  His drive pulled at my heart and for the first time gave me hope.

This summer, clinical trials are continuing.  More adults are getting to experience life with the bionic pancreas.  More children are getting to experience it as well. According to the latest video, they are now reaching the stage to change the design making things more streamline.  This is moving quickly to become a reality!

Being me, and spending so many years advocating for access to better treatments regardless of income or insurance coverage, I can’t help but wonder what direction this project will take.  To me, and I am sure to Dr. Damiano, this device is the diabetes equivalent of a pacemaker and should come under the larger umbrella of our health care system making it available to everyone who is insulin dependent.

At this stage, they are far from knowing how things will proceed in terms of distribution.  We will have to wait.  While we wait, I will continue to work to see access to insulin pumps and CGMs for all people with diabetes regardless of age.  I will continue to put money into my son’s RDSP just in case he does have to purchase the system out-of-pocket to begin with.  If need be, we will advocate for access for everyone to this life changing technology but for now, I will watch and cheer from the sidelines.  I will hope that this will be the technology that changes the life of my son and all of our children with diabetes (no matter what their age).

Tides of Change

 Artificial Pancreas approved by FDA”  Sounds great doesn’t it? Its sadly right up there with “Scientists find way to cure diabetes”…in mice.  Well, its not quite that bad but it is media hype that does not quite match the reality of the innovation.
The Medtronic Veo insulin pump has been available in Canada for quite some time.  For a change, we were able to avail of a new technology before the US market. In this case, it means availing of a technology that shuts down your insulin pump if your CGM tells the pump that you are low and dropping. This is a pretty great feature but does not for many equate to a true “artificial pancreas”.
A number of people in the diabetes community feel that a true artificial pancreas is more in keeping with Dr. Ed Damiano’s Bionic Pancreas project rather than these smarter pumps. His pro-type has been used on adults and children with Type 1 diabetes in real world settings. A bulky model at that moment, but it has given people with Type 1 diabetes a freedom that they have not experienced since prior to their diagnosis.
Dr. Damiano’s approach combines the use of insulin, glucagon, a CGM, a smart insulin pump, and finally an iPhone.  With all of this, he is able to create a pancreas for people like his son who live with Type 1.  Those who have listened to his presentation (like myself) walk away amazed and inspired. Those who have used the system talk of an experience like nothing that they have ever imagined before.  They were able to enjoy meals without carb counting. They had nights without testing.  They experienced relatively stable bg levels. It is truly amazing.
This research is not funded by an insulin pump company. This researched is fueled by a father’s desire to keep his son safe.  David Damiano was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 11 months. This amazing project has given my own son hope where he didn’t have a lot before.
There are many great changes in the wind for people living with diabetes. Whether we are looking at a bionic pancreas, an artificial pancreas, or simply the improved accuracy of Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems.  Diabetes care has moved forward a lot since our journey began over 13 years ago. I am excited to see it move forward much further in the next 13! The next challenge will be to ensure that people living with diabetes will have the ability to access these improved technologies.
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