Artificial Pancreas Beats CGM Assisted Pump

Continuous Glucose Monitor (Photo Credit: John Soares)

We are not there yet, but high tech mechanical pancreases are becoming more sophisticated.  You might ask, isn’t an artificial pancreas basically a marriage of an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM)?  What’s the difference anyway? The big difference is who makes the decisions. While CGMs and insulin pumps provide information about what is happening with your glucose levels, they don’t tell you what to do with it.  The artificial pancreas has a built in brain containing algorithms developed by researchers that take the information coming from the CGM and based on the algorithm automatically make adjustments to the amount of insulin the pump injects.

So researchers conducted a study to see who or what is better at determining glucose control. Think of the chess game played by the IBM computer, Deep Blue, against the master chessman, Garry Kasparov, in 1997. The computer won.  Now the result didn’t mean the computer was smarter than the man, but it did point out that given a wide variety of possible “moves” with a large enough database and the speed that comes with processing power that the computer was able to make more logical decisions more predictably over time.

And such was the result of the experiment conducted at the National Center for Childhood Diabetes, in Petah Tikva, Israel.  The study was published in the Feb 28 2013 issue of Pediatric Diabetes. Fifty-six children with type 1 diabetes were assigned to either a sensor-augmented insulin pump or the MD-Logic artificial-pancreas system for one night and then the groups switched.

The major difference in results between the two devices was in the rates of nocturnal hypoglycemia. Only seven children experienced overnight lows in the artificial pancreas group compared to 22 children using the sensor-augmented insulin pump. In addition, the participants were able to achieve a reduction in overnight glucose levels of 36mg/dl while preventing wide swings from highs to lows.  However, there were more false alarms in the artificial pancreas group.

Although not a cure, a mechanical device that could supply insulin doses reliably without user input would be a boon for most people with type 1 diabetes.


  1. The whole concept of artificial pancreas is wrong. The normal body uses much more than blood glucose to control insulin release. Therefore, no algorithm whatsoever can estimate the insulin demand from (even continuous) blood glucose readings. And what is blood glucose?

  2. Most people get up in the morning poop, shower, shave, dress, fight traffic and go to work. These normal people eat or don’t eat and if they eat, they eat what they want and do it at home or eat at the office. Type 1 diabetics have to do all of the above, but must measure there blood glucose, add a bolus to cover breakfast and then test again before lunch and then bolus for lunch and then test again in mid afternoon and make adjustments as needed and then test again dinner and bolus again. What a dream to eliminate pricking fingers, bolusing all day long. An artificial pancreas isn’t a cure but sure beats the hell out of living the life in the typical day of an “observant” type 1 diabetic

  3. I agree with you Gary wholeheartedly! I am a bit tired of the regimented lifestyle with pricking fingers, bolusing and such. Personally, I would like a pump that not only gives insulin as needed, but also gives glucose if needed. Since the insulin is not coming from the pancreas itself, wouldn’t it be probable that someone could also still become hypoglycemic? Just a thought but God bless those doing the research. I love all of you and always told my family that if I ever won megabucks, a chunk of it would go to your research at the Joslin.

    Ann Marie

  4. Does this ‘Artificial Pancreas’ monitor the glucose, and release the insulin into the subcutaneous tissue? One of the problems with anything subcutaneous, including rapid acting insulins is – they are too slow. Intraperitoneal, I believe will work much better, and as a type 1 diabetic for 36 years: I cannot wait!

  5. Seems as though the treatment of Diabetes is going to become easier considering new technology such as CGM and Artificial Pancreas. I’ve been on a CGM for a while now and it has given me infinitely better control. The new devices must also be able to read glucose level and distribute insulin as needed. I’ve been a Type 1 for the past 67 out of 69 years. I remember my Mom sharpening a thick needle with a hone then boiling syringe and needle. I remember her collecting sample of urine, measuring 10 drops of urine and 10 drops of water then adding a powder which would tell her low, medium, high depending on color. It’s exciting to learn of new devices being developed. Just hope that I will enjoy at least a few years without having to use a syringe before I leave our fabulous earth. Cannot Thank our Research Scientists enough for all of the advancements now available to us.

  6. I’m with you all! After 60 years of needles and finger-pricks and now an OmniPod (bless it), I’m ready for an “artificial” pancreas. The Joslin’s 50-Year Survivor Study is making good strides in why we’ve lived this long with type 1 with few or no complications and researchers are working very hard to develop something we can all use to replace our failed or failing Islets of Langerhans. All my life I’ve heard, “Oh, in another 10 years, there will be a cure.” I stopped listening to that long ago.

    I tried a CGM but all it did was wake me up multiple times each night with false readings. It could only deal with average blood glucoses and refused to make the corrections I entered. I gave it up after several months.

  7. I have had type 1 diabetes for 48 yrs (since age 8) and I can’t wait for a chance to aquire an artifical pancreas. Am so tired of the pricking and taking insulin and trying to keep my blood sugars below 150. Have had triple bypass in 2007 and am now experiencing kidney disease. Where do I go to sign up to be a guinea pig for the artifical pancreas? Good Luck!

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