JDRF, Animas, and Dexcom Walk Into a Bar: Not a Diabetes Joke - An Artificial Pancreas.
Okay, so it's not a joke. And it's not a bar. But the JDRF, Animas, and DexCom have walked into a momumental agreement in efforts to create an artificial pancreas.
According to the press release, "The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation today announced an innovative partnership with Animas Corporation to develop an automated system to help people with type 1 diabetes better control their disease – the first step on the path to what would be among the most revolutionary advancements in treating type 1 diabetes: the development of an artificial pancreas, a fully automated system to dispense insulin to patients based on real-time changes in blood sugar levels."
Alan Lewis, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of JDRF, is quoted in the release as saying, "JDRF will provide $8 million in funding over the next three years for this project, with a target of having a first-generation system ready for regulatory review within the next four or so years.”
So what exactly would it mean to have an artificial pancreas? More from the release: “If successful, the development of this first-generation system would begin the process of automating how people with diabetes manage their blood sugar,” said Alan Lewis, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of JDRF. 'Ultimately, an artificial pancreas will deliver insulin as needed, minute-by-minute, throughout the day to maintain blood sugars within a target range. But even this early system could bring dramatic changes in the quality of life for the 3 million people in the U.S. with type 1 diabetes, beginning to free kids and adults from testing, calculating and treating themselves throughout the day.'”
Also, "DexCom, Inc., a leading manufacturer of CGM devices, will supply the CGM technology for the system to be developed by JDRF and Animas."
I think this is a huge step forward for a new way of treating type 1 diabetes. I've clocked over 204,360 hours with type 1 diabetes since my diagnosis over two decades ago, I've seen so many tremendous technological steps forward in treatment options for type 1. Home glucose testing machines were "all the rage" when I was diagnosed, and there were only two or three insulin options for injection therapy. Now, home meters are the norm, there are more insulin options and more insulin delivery options now than ever before, and continuous glucose monitors are part of my regular routine (versus before, if you had mentioned them to me as a kid, I would have thought you were from the moon).
And now we're talking about an artificial pancreas? A real one? One that actually could be used in my lifetime, before I'm too old to care or too sick to benefit from it? I believe this can happen, and I am so hopeful that these organizations and companies can make this a reality.
A cure is something I don't think much about. It's something my heart has protectively hardened me against hoping for. I know that reversing my body's inclination to attack its own islet cells could be a long time in coming. What I do know is that I've been living with type 1 diabetes for almost my entire life, and I've battled hard to keep my body healthy and strong. And now, I'm expecting a baby and have even more incentive to stay healthy for my child, so that I can be part of her life for a long, long time.
If an artificial pancreas can help me minimize highs and lows in my blood sugars, that could help to protect my body from diabetes-related complications. I could be safer. My body could feel more "normal." And my baby has a better chance of having me see her children born some day.
This press release has given me a reason to grin today. And I'm excited to see how far these organizations can bring us all towards a better life with type 1 diabetes.