Will A Bionic Pancreas For Type 1 Diabetes Soon Be A Reality?

| February 4, 2017

I reported in my last blog post on a development that is important for anybody with type 1 diabetes – the testing of a bionic pancreas that uses both insulin and glucagon, two hormones that keep blood sugar levels in balance. As I explained in my last post, insulin reduces blood sugar while glucagon raises it.

The subjects in the new trial were 39 people who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes for at least a year and who had used an insulin pump to manage their blood sugar for at least six months. The participants completed two 11-day study periods, one using the new bionic pancreas and one using the insulin pump and glucose monitor they had been using previously. They were allowed to pursue normal activities at home or at work, with no limitations on diet or exercise.

Results showed average daytime blood glucose levels with the bionic pancreas were significantly lower than with the standard insulin pump – 7.8 mmol/l (141 mg/dl) compared with 9.0 mmol/l (162 mg/dl). The risk of hypos (hypoglycaemic episodes) was also cut dramatically, to around one third of that with the standard devices, with the risk of one happening at night reduced to virtually zero.

The use of both insulin and glucagon in the prototype bionic pancreas means that it functions more like the real organ. A properly-functioning pancreas detects the level of glucose in the blood and produces both insulin from its beta-cells and glucagon from its alpha-cells, to keep the level steady.

The inventors of the bionic pancreas, one of whom has a 17-year-old son with type 1 diabetes, have set up a company called Beta Bionics, to develop a commercially viable product. They already have plans to test a more compact and integrated version, with the working name of “iLet”.

I should sound a note of warning, though, that when and if this new device becomes available at an affordable price, people with type 1 diabetes will still need to pay attention to their diet – and to look after their gut bacteria. In my next blog post, I report on new research showing that people with type 1 diabetes have a unique kind of inflammation in their gut, along with a characteristic set of gut bacteria.

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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