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Artificial pancreas
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease caused by an autoimmune destruction of pancreatic beta cells, which produce insulin. People living with type 1 diabetes depend on insulin daily to live either through injections or the use of a pump. These patients must carefully manage their blood glucose levels to ensure they remain within a target range. Blood glucose control is the key to preventing serious long-term complications related to high glucose levels (such as blindness or kidney failure) and reduces the risk of hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood glucose that can lead to confusion, disorientation and, if severe, loss of consciousness). 

Approximately two-thirds of patients don’t achieve their target range with current treatments,” says Dr. Rabasa-Lhoret, endocrinologist and supervisor of the external artificial pancreas research project at the IRCM. “The artificial pancreas could help them reach these targets and reduce the risk of hypoglycemia, which is feared by most patients and remains the most common adverse effect of insulin therapy.”

Dr. Rabasa-Lhoret’s interdisciplinary research group is currently testing an external artificial pancreas for patients with type 1 diabetes. Two configurations of the artificial pancreas are being tested: one that infuses insulin and another that infuses insulin and glucagon. The artificial pancreas is composed of three components:

  • A commercially-available continuous glucose sensor (to measure glucose levels using a small probe placed on the abdomen).
  • One or several infusion pumps, also commercially-available (to infuse insulin and/or glucagon).
  • An intelligent dosing algorithm (to alter insulin and glucagon delivery in response to the sensor readings).
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