SAN JOSE, Calif. — Researchers are dialing into smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth for the next big step toward the artificial pancreas. Backers hope the work could lay a foundation for other automated, in-home tests, lowering costs and improving quality of healthcare.
Today multiple companies market continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps. However, so far no one has fielded a system that connects the two devices and automates the process of delivering insulin based on real-time readings.
As many as a dozen research groups around the world are at work developing the key algorithms. Most are poised to extend trials from tests of a couple dozen patients overnight to several hundred patients in trials lasting several weeks.
"I could see something on the market perhaps two to three years out," says John Pritchard, commercial director of diagnostics and life sciences at Cambridge Consultants Ltd.
The company is developing an app that will embed an algorithm under development by Roman Hovorka, a principal investigator at Addenbrooke Hospital in Cambridge, UK. Roman conducted bedside trials using notebook computers and plans to expand his work to home-based trials using smartphone or tablets later this year.
"My previous trials were nurse-supervised in a hospital setting and also included unsupervised home use of the system," said Hovorka, a director of research at the University of Cambridge in a press statement. "Trialling the system in a natural setting over a longer time period is the next stage in making the system widely available," he said.
Research groups in Santa Barbara, Calif., and Padua, Italy, are also active in the field, said Pritchard. A handful of medical electronics companies selling pumps and/or monitors, including Abbot, Medtronic, and others, are also in the hunt. At a recent event in Chicago they discussed efforts to develop closed-loop algorithms for the treatment of diabetes.
"Data from most of the groups has been encouraging, showing better control," Pritchard said. "Lots of medical data shows that if glucose is controlled more tightly there are less complications and greater wellness."
Trials will take data from a glucose sensor (1), send it to a monitor (2), and then to a smartphone (3), which will determine actions and send them to a pump (4).