Medtronic, Inc. announced new developments in its long-standing goal to create a “closed-loop” diabetes management system which is referred to as an “artificial pancreas". It would emulate a healthy pancreas by using technology that continuously monitors glucose levels and automatically adjusts insulin delivery in patients with diabetes.
Medtronic plans to launch the first “semi-closed loop” system in several countries in Europe later this summer. Patients will experience the first diabetes technology to make automated treatment decisions in extreme situations. The device includes a Low Glucose Suspend (LGS) feature that automatically suspends insulin delivery when glucose levels become too low, protecting against the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) even when a person is asleep and unable to react.
“We have made a significant achievement toward closing the loop with development of the low glucose suspend feature, and we’re making continued progress in our quest to fully automate diabetes management,” said Chris O’Connell, president of the Diabetes business and senior vice president at Medtronic. “Medtronic has a strong heritage of innovation in every facet of diabetes management, and is the only company to have integrated insulin pump therapy with continuous glucose monitoring— the building blocks of a closed-loop system. Our vision is to integrate our insulin pumps, CGM, data management and control algorithms into a device that fully automates glucose control.”
“Hypoglycemia is one of the most frightening aspects of diabetes management and can lead to loss of consciousness, seizures and even death,” said Dr. Francine Kaufman, chief medical officer at Medtronic’s Diabetes business. “The low glucose suspend feature is like an airbag in your car. While not a cure for diabetes, it offers added protection, greater confidence and may lower the risk of injury associated with hypoglycemic events, giving patients and family members greater peace of mind.”
Medtronic also recently announced the purchase of all continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) assets from PreciSense A/C, a Denmark-based development company focused on CGM technology. In addition to potentially broadening the breadth and utilization of CGM technology, this acquisition is expected to aid development of Medtronic’s closed-loop system program and expand the company’s already robust CGM pipeline.
“Medtronic is committed to innovation, and continues to increase its R&D spending on diabetes technology by double-digit percentages in order to speed development of new devices that are simpler to use and most effective at managing diabetes,” said Dr. John Mastrototaro, vice president of research and development for the Diabetes business. “We will continue to develop and acquire new technologies that provide the best solutions for a robust closed-loop system.”
Presented at this year’s 69th Annual Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) in New Orleans, a recent clinical study suggested that automated regulation of blood glucose might improve outcomes and further reduce the burden of diabetes care. The study, lead by Dr. Roman Hovorka, head of the Diabetes Modeling Group in the Institute of Metabolic Science at the Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, followed 17 pediatric patients from ages six to 17, on closed-loop technology overnight while they slept in a British hospital. The study found that inpatient closed-loop systems kept patients within healthy glucose ranges for longer, and more significantly reduced the incidence of hypoglycemia versus standard insulin pump therapy. The researchers also observed that the average blood glucose of patients on the closed-loop system tended to be lower than the glucose of patients on conventional insulin pump therapy.
“Our recent study reinforces the growing body of evidence that suggests closed-loop systems are closer to a reality than ever before,” said Dr. Hovorka. “We’re excited to learn that automated technology like the closed-loop system may one day provide a new standard of diabetes management that will ensure patients can live longer, healthier lives free from complications often associated with poor diabetes control.”
“It’s been my dream for more than 30 years to close the loop on diabetes management,” said Dr. Kaufman. “We have the technology, the drive and the vision to achieve great things with automated diabetes management. It is my mission while at Medtronic to finally bring the dream of an artificial pancreas to reality.”