Study: Artificial pancreas with inhaled insulin improves glucose control

In another step forward for the artificial pancreas, researchers in the U.S. have performed the first successful clinical trial using the device along with fast-acting inhaled insulin to enhance insulin intake during mealtimes for patients with Type 1 diabetes.

The Sansum Diabetes Research Institute teamed up with the College of Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) to study the effects of using inhaled insulin to help accommodate meals in addition to treatment with an artificial pancreas. The artificial pancreas combines an insulin pump with a continuous glucose monitor for closed-loop delivery, much like a healthy pancreas, but current iterations of the device don't provide the burst of insulin needed at mealtimes.

By including an inhaled insulin option along with the artificial pancreas, the researchers showed that, besides the automated dosage throughout the day, the combined treatments "greatly improved" blood glucose levels during and after mealtimes. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) funded the study, and the organization has spent 5 years developing approaches to the artificial pancreas.

"The subcutaneous route of delivery is a very slow way to push insulin into the body, compared to the appearance of glucose in the blood stream following the meal. So we need a much quicker way to intervene," said co-principal investigator Francis J. Doyle III, associate dean of research at UCSB. "So, by using inhaled, ultra-rapid-acting insulin, we have a chance to manage blood glucose even better by emulating a more natural pancreatic function. We can get the insulin quickly into circulation and it will be cleared quickly and safely from the bloodstream."

Several companies are now vying for regulatory approval of an artificial pancreas device, including Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), Medtronic ($MDT), Becton Dickinson and Tandem Diabetes Care. And JDRF is currently sponsoring $530 million in Type 1 diabetes scientific research in 17 countries, according to the organization.

- here's the release

Special Report: The race for the artificial pancreas