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Bionic Pancreas

June 16, 2014

Our bodies are machines; and one failed part can mean we never wake up. So now we try to replace a failing part with something we design. The classic case is diabetes, in which the pancreas fails to produce insulin on demand. In this case, the father of an insulin-dependent boy designed an artificial insulin regulator.

It’s actually not the whole pancreas, which has many functions besides insulin. But the device monitors blood sugar and readjusts the hormone levels. Blood sugar monitors already exist; what is new about the “bionic pancreas” is that it not only monitors the sugar, it responds by pumping insulin (lowers glucose) or glucagon (raises glucose) as needed.

Will we see more and more of such devices? The current device (still in testing) addresses a life-threatening condition; for an entire lifetime, the patient must monitor their own glucose 24/7, every moment of the day. It will be interesting to see, though, how many such devices begin to augment our bodies, picking up for failing functions–or adding new ones.

One Comment
  1. June 17, 2014 1:32 am

    I’m sure many of your readers see your posts as science updates–I read them like a consumer…

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