Type 1 diabetes may have met its match

William Woods of South Windsor was part of a Beacon Hill study in Boston this past September, designed to study the effectiveness of the “Bionic Pancreas,” which was created by Dr. Ed Damiano. The goal of the study was to gather data from human subjects that were afflicted with type 1 diabetes while they were hooked up to the device. Their ambition is to put an end to the burden of diabetes management through insulin injections.

The study is performed by a group from Boston University and Massachusetts General Hospital. They are working together to create and perfect an automated blood glucose control device called the Bionic Pancreas. The engineers from Boston University have developed a closed-loop artificial pancreas that registers and manipulates blood glucose levels. The device makes these decisions every five minutes (http://www.artificialpancreas.org/Home_Page.html).

Woods is accustomed to monitoring every bite of food he eats and each activity he pursues. Even going out to dinner was an issue for him. “If I went to a restaurant, the first thing I would do would be to look at the restroom situation,” said Woods. “I needed to be sure there was a private place to take my insulin injection without everyone watching. I was always aware of how many carbohydrates were in my food. If there were too many, I would suffer terrible side effects like a major headache, feeling jittery or even feeling like my body was stuck in a vat of honey. I am hopeful that the device will allow diabetics to live a normal life.”

With high hopes, Woods began the 10-day study, the first outpatient study performed by this group. During the first five days, he was only monitored but received no treatment. The blood glucose was recorded to be used as a comparison to the days when the Bionic Pancreas would be used.

“We had a nurse checking our glucose levels with a laboratory accurate glucose monitor called a HemoCue,” said Woods. “At night, we needed to have an IV inserted so that our levels would be checked by a computer every 30 minutes. When the second half of the trial came around, I was very hopeful." One pump was inserted to provide insulin, and another for glucagon. "This would regulate our blood glucose without any intervention on our part," Woods said.

The theory of this system is that the device would recognize when the sugar levels were rising or falling and make the proper adjustments to the system before the effects are even felt. “I ate all foods I like, pizza, cupcakes and Chinese food,” said Woods.

“With the device, my levels were well maintained and I felt better than I have in a very long time. With diabetes, the glucose levels drop quite a bit during the night, and you have many more bathroom trips, so you can wake up feeling extremely tired and sluggish. With the Bionic Pancreas, I experienced none of that. I had the best night’s sleep and I woke up feeling refreshed. What a great feeling!”

When Dr. Damiano became a father of a baby with Type 1 diabetes, he vowed to create a way that would deliver regular injections of insulin. Approximately 13 years later, his dream has become a reality. The first study was held in 2003 and was performed on pigs, but now it has reached the stage of studying the implications of benefits on humans.

“I am very honored to be a part of this study,” said Woods. “Someday there will be a version of this available for the general population with T1D. It was very difficult to hand over the device at the end of the study. I can’t wait for the day that this will be a part of my life." He said an additional study is planned in 2015.

Another study is scheduled for July 13-26 for girls that are at least 12 years old and insulin pump dependant and another date of July 27 – Aug. 9 for boys that are of the same age and same dependency.

For more information on this study, contact Mallory Hillard at 617-643-2019 or mahillard@partners.org. For links to Wood’s online diary go to http://www.artificialpancreas.org/ClinicalTrials.html, https://myglu.org/articles/bionic-bill-day-2-playing-hard-to-get, https://myglu.org/articles/bionic-bill-day-3-our-bionic-bash-date-night, https://myglu.org/articles/bionic-bill-day-4-carb-celebration,and https://myglu.org/articles/day-5-the-bionic-break-up.


Nick Kalikajaros 2017