The Bionic Pancreas: Coming Soon!

Imagine waking up and glancing down at your smart pump. Your blood sugar is a perfect 100 mg (5.5 mmol). You decide to have pancakes for breakfast. You tap “Large Meal” on the screen and start eating. Your sugars rise up to 180 mg (10 mmol) before coasting gently back down towards normal as you go through your morning. As you go out for a run, you marvel that it’s been a month since you had a very low blood sugar.

This is not a fantasy: it is happening today in the Beacon Hill Study of the Bionic Pancreas.

How the Bionic Pancreas Works

Dr. Ed Damiano, one of the father’s of the bionic pancreas and a biomedical engineer by training, shared the remarkable progress of the program over the last 10 years at the Friends For Life Conference in Orlando, Florida. The event, hosted by Children With Diabetes, is the largest gathering for people with type 1 diabetes in the world.

So what is the Bionic Pancreas? Damiano explains: “It’s a pumping system, a sensor, and an algorithm that makes a decision every 5 minutes to dose insulin or glucagon to raise or lower blood sugars.” In today’s incarnation, it’s an iPhone 4S that collects data from a Dexcom G4 continuous glucose sensor and tells two Tandem insulin pumps to dose insulin (to lower blood sugar) or glucagon (to raise it). This is an investigational device. The actual device would be a dual chamber smart pump connected to a continuous glucose sensor.

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Very, very cool. How weird not to count carbs. How nice not to plan a temp basal in advance of extended shopping/yardwork/housework. And being able to exercise without committing to a long-term regimen because it won't matter if my insulin sensitivity wobbles back and forth between life with exercise and life without. I have only used the PLUS but I am surprised the G4 is accurate enough to allow such good results.

They have an Exercise Announcement feature they will be testing in the next trial. You tell the system that you are exercising and it immediately starts aggressively correcting low blood sugars with glucagon. You don't tell it how hard you're working out, just that you're activity level will be up, and it does the rest. Very elegant!

Wow. Thanks for this information. Sounds very promising!


To answer all the questions so far:

- aiming for 2017 approval. This is VERY ambitious. See the bottom of the linked post above for more details
- You can follow the project at
- They are fully recruited for the Beacon Hill Study but will be starting up more studies in the fall.

I want to participate in the trial!!! This is incredibly exciting. Thank you for sharing, David!!

i see things like this and i just wanna cry because its not going to fix me!! i want to be fixed without being bionic! bionic is cool for tv characters!! :(

me too, pancreaswanted...i don't want anymore things to insert, hook on, hook in, download, upload, puncture into my skin; all of which are fallible, as with any technology ...a cure, that's my dream.

I’m skeptical only because frankly, my G4 is not accurate enough for me. I don’t know why it’s not as good for me as others.