Lab Canada

$2.5M funding for research on the artificial pancreas

Montreal, QC – A Canadian research team working on the development of an external artificial pancreas is receiving a grant of just over US$2.5 million from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).


The objective of the project, which will be led by Dr. Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret at the IRCM (Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal), is to compare the effectiveness of the single-hormone (insulin alone) artificial pancreas, the dual-hormone (insulin and glucagon) artificial pancreas, and conventional insulin pump therapy for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.


“Most patients with type 1 diabetes show difficulty in maintaining their glucose levels within recommended target ranges,” says Dr. Rabasa-Lhoret, endocrinologist and clinical researcher at the IRCM. “High blood glucose can lead to devastating complications such as blindness, kidney failure and heart disease, while low blood glucose can cause malaise and even comas. The artificial pancreas has a great potential to improve glucose control by reducing both high and low glucose levels, which should consequently improve health outcomes and patients’ quality of life.”


Previous studies have demonstrated the artificial pancreas can prevent hypoglycemia and decrease mean glucose levels. The recent development of a portable automated artificial pancreas has facilitated the transition from short-term studies to larger outpatient studies. The funded project aims to compare the three treatment methods and their ability to regulate day-and-night glucose levels for up to 15 weeks in adults and children with type 1 diabetes.


“While the dual-hormone artificial pancreas has the potential to further reduce the risk of hypoglycemia compared to other therapies, quantifying the benefits provided by glucagon is especially important to determine whether they outweigh the reduced costs, use and system complexity provided by single-hormone therapy,” explains Dr. Rabasa-Lhoret. “Our study will provide a head-to-head comparison of the different treatment options, using a large sample size over a longer period of time.”


“Development of the artificial pancreas has the potential to improve the lives and health of people with type 1 diabetes,” says Dr. Guillermo Arreaza-Rubín, the diabetes technology program director at the NIDDK. “This project will provide information comparing the risks and benefits of three approaches to glucose control in people with type 1 diabetes.”


The project Comparison of dual-hormone artificial pancreas, single-hormone artificial pancreas, and sensor-augmented pump therapy in outpatient settings will receive funding for a period of four years. This grant (grant number 1 DP3 DK106930-01) will be supported by the Special Statutory Funding Program for Type 1 Diabetes Research. Through this program, the NIDDK seeks to accelerate the pace of scientific research towards prevention, more effective treatment, and cure of type 1 diabetes.


An emerging technology to treat type 1 diabetes, the external artificial pancreas is an automated system that simulates a functional pancreas by using pumps to continuously adapt hormone delivery based on changes in glucose levels, which are measured by glucose sensors. The technology should be available commercially within the next five to seven years.


Dr. Rabasa-Lhoret’s artificial pancreas research program is also supported by the Fondation J.A. DeSève, the IRCM Foundation, the Canadian Diabetes Association, JDRF, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Diabetes Québec, the Société francophone du diabète and the CMDO Network (Réseau de recherche en santé cardiométaboliques, diabète et obésité).