Doctors in Minnesota reported Saturday that an automatic insulin pump worked as intended in a study of diabetic patients.
Minneapolis-based Medtronic, Inc. (NYSE:MDT) said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing their "smart pump" after a study reduced low-sugar episodes by about one-third in patients with Type 1 diabetes.
"This is the first step in the development of the artificial pancreas," Dr. Richard Bergenstal, diabetes chief at Park Nicollet clinic in St. Louis Park, Minn., told an audience Saturday at the American Diabetes Association conference in Chicago. "We have the first part of it now and I really think it will be developed."
The three-month-long, company-sponsored study involved patients with Type 1 diabetes, people whose bodies don't make insulin, the hormone that turns food into energy.
The artificial pancreas device, a wearable pump about the size of a cellphone, is programmed to adjust insulin based on continuous readings from a blood-sugar monitor during meals and also during sleep when blood sugar dips -- the device's most unique feature.
The participating diabetics using the automatic shut off device reported no cases of severely low blood sugar, marking what observers are hailing as a major step toward mimicking real pancreas.
"As a first step, I think we should all be very excited that it works," an independent expert, Dr. Irl Hirsch of the University of Washington in Seattle, told CBS News DC.
Similar devices are already available in Europe, and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and several other research groups in the U.S. are developing their own artificial pancreas.