U.Va.'s Artificial Pancreas a Real-World Success for Diabetes Patients


For the first time ever, patients with Type 1 diabetes have controlled their disease in a real-life setting using an artificial pancreas system developed by University of Virginia researchers. This milestone means researchers are even closer to revolutionizing diabetes care for millions of people with Type 1 diabetes.

At the heart of the system is a novel hand-held device developed by a U.Va. research team, led by Patrick Keith-Hynes and Boris Kovatchev, members of the psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences faculty in the School of Medicine. The device uses a "smart" algorithm to automatically deliver insulin and regulate a person's blood sugar levels – taking much of the burden of constant monitoring off the patient.

This first outpatient study marks the latest milestone in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Artificial Pancreas Project, which involves an international research consortium including teams from U.Va., the University of California in Santa Barbara, Montpellier University Hospital (France), and the universities of Padova and Pavia (Italy).

Researchers in Europe recently announced the trial results. The study took place in France and Italy.

In the study, two patients with Type 1 diabetes attained near-normal glucose levels after spending one night outside of a hospital while using the artificial pancreas system. The patients were able to eat a restaurant meal and spend one night at a hotel while using the device.

"We at U.Va. have enjoyed successful inpatient trials of the artificial pancreas and we continue to do so," said Kovatchev, director of the U.Va. Center for Diabetes Technology. "But the success in an outpatient, real-world setting is an enormous and encouraging milestone. This is a day for all of us involved with the artificial pancreas project to truly celebrate."

"Today, there are no fully automated insulin delivery systems available on the market, and that's why JDRF has made accelerating the development and delivery of these technologies a priority," said Dr. Aaron Kowalski, assistant vice president of treatment therapies at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. "This latest research milestone is incredibly exciting and shows us that the first generation of an artificial pancreas is no longer a dream."

Kovatchev is the U.Va. Patent Foundation's 2011 Edlich-Henderson Inventor of the Year.

Support for artificial pancreas research has come from Paul and Diane Manning, through the Manning Family Foundation, Fred and Susan Russell, and Hunter Goodwin.

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