New Device Uses Two Hormones To Control Blood Sugar

| January 31, 2017

People with type 1 diabetes, who are unable to produce their own insulin, have long had to rely on injected forms of the hormone. As anyone who has had to do it knows, injecting yourself with insulin may sound simple, but it comes with several potential problems.

These include pain, bleeding or bruising at the injection site, skin conditions if the same site is used repeatedly, insulin leakage after injection… and so on. Then, there is the whole business of monitoring your blood sugar so that you can be sure of injecting the right amount of insulin at the right time. Not enough and your blood sugar remains unhealthily high; too much and you could experience a dangerous ‘hypo’ (hypoglycaemia, a low blood sugar episode).

So, for several years now, scientists have been trying to figure out ways to automate the process – to create a bionic pancreas (the body organ that naturally secretes insulin). I wrote here, almost five years ago, about some encouraging developments. Continuous, automatic glucose monitoring can now provide a more accurate picture of blood sugar than a ‘snapshot’ blood test, while mobile phone technology can calculate the exact dose of insulin to be delivered by an insulin pump.

Now, a further, breakthrough development suggests that a reliable, commercially-available bionic pancreas may finally be close. A new kind of appliance developed by Boston University has performed better than the existing technology in an initial trial by people with type 1 diabetes, who were living at home and going about their normal daily activities.1

Unlike earlier devices, which only delivered a measured dose of insulin, the Boston University system uses two hormones, insulin and glucagon, to control blood sugar more tightly within the correct range. While insulin lowers blood sugar by moving glucose into body cells, glucagon has the opposite effect, prompting the liver to convert its stores of glycogen into glucose. This refinement greatly reduces the risk of a hypo, particularly during the night while the person is asleep.

In my next blog post, I’ll tell you about the results obtained from this study, together with news of how the bionic pancreas is being developed commercially as a device that could significantly change the lives of people with type 1 diabetes.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

Bear in mind we are not addressing anyone’s personal situation and you should rely on this for informational purposes only. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


1. El-Khatib FH, Balliro C, Hillard MA et al. Home use of a bihormonal bionic pancreas versus insulin pump therapy in adults with type 1 diabetes: a multicentre randomised crossover trial. Lancet. 2016 Dec 20 (Online ahead of print).

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Category: Diabetes

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