The iLet (Bionic Pancreas)

Throughout the years, we’ve seen many advances in Diabetes technology. From the Insulin pumps, to the Freestyle Libre and so many other amazing technologies.

The most recent and major development is that of the Bionic Pancreas. This long-anticipated technology is able to completely manage an individual’s diabetes by tracking blood glucose levels, controlling insulin doses, as well as administering glucagon to individual’s when they need it.

 The Bionic Pancreas represents so many great things and has the potential to ease the immense amount of pressure faced by diabetics and carers. It could give users, a sense of, physical, emotional and physiological freedom from the day to day struggles and anxiety diabetes self-management presents.

The Bionic Pancreas is able to mimic a healthy pancreas, allowing for the normal release of liver enzymes as well as cellular metabolism.

The initial model included a few different components; a smart phone, a sensor, and two pumps. The sensor is able to take a snapshot of an individual’s blood glucose readings, sends information to a smartphone device, which then communicates via Bluetooth signals to two pumps (one containing insulin and the other containing glucagon). Insulin and glucagon are administered when the individual is in need of it just like a normal functioning pancreas would.

Bionic Pancreas

Bionic Pancreas

More recently, a single handheld device called the iLet was developed. This device contains both insulin and glucagon and is able to acts in opposition to each other, when food is consumed and in turn when blood glucose levels increase or decrease. This giving the diabetic suffers a more stable blood glucose reading.

Within the iLet there still exists 3 components all combined into one device:

  • Continuous glucose sensor (sends glucose levels wirelessly to the device)
  • Mathematical algorithms which determine and make therapeutic decisions based on a person’s age and weight.
  • The algorithm is able to make suggestions every five minutes, 24 hours a day, giving a total of 288 daily decisions for each person’s insulin and glucagon requirements.
  • Built in pumps to deliver insulin and glucagon (a weeks’ worth of insulin and glucagon)
The iLet

The iLet

As exciting as this new technological innovation is, I feel a level of uncertainty when it comes to handing over complete control to this device. Having to trust in this device is going to be a huge hurdle for me.

After all, the iLet is still only a machine! A very sophisticated machine made up of carefully calculated algorithms but a machine nonetheless. Machines break, machines malfunction, as I have experienced with my insulin pump.  Also, for the past 21 years, I’ve been in charge of all the day to day decision making, when it comes to this condition.

However, as a pump wearer, I must remember I had to face the similar and very daunting task of deciding whether or not I should remain on multiple daily injections (MDI) or take that leap of faith and trust in this new technology.  The thought of using a pump at the time was both thrilling and frightening. Putting part of my diabetes management into the hands of a machine, being attached to a wire and insert, whilst carrying around the insulin pump, completely terrified me. I realised then, how accustomed I was to my MDI, although I had lived with the arduous task of managing MDI, it was as simple as injecting and then putting it away. With the pump, it meant I had to be attached to it constantly.  

Nevertheless, for me, the main focus and one that allowed me to accept the idea of wearing a pump full time, was the possible improvement I might have in my diabetes management. Also, at the time I was expecting my first child and I wanted to have the best control possible. I was given the opportunity to have a trial run. With it on I could see the vast improvement it made in my blood glucose control as a whole. It was then, that I decided to plunge into the deep end and take a chance with wearing the pump full time. Since then, I have never looked back

My control is much tighter than it was on MDl. The thing’s I feared, like having  a wire and inserts attached to me, have all now become intertwined in my life. It has become my new “norm” and although I am connected to it 24/7, it has without a doubt liberated me.

And now, in the absence of a cure, the iLet has given me another glimmer of hope. I am now more open to the idea of being able to free myself even more from the struggles I face with this condition. It isn’t much different to the wearing a pump. Yes, it’s much bigger and more complex but I personally would be willing to trade in my pump for an iLet, if that meant that I would have better BG control, even better HbA1c results, less stress and the pressure to maintain good control and the possible reduction of developing diabetic complications.Then I embrace it fully!

Although I’m very much sold, there are a few things I must take into consideration.

  1. Being connected to the iLet, doesn’t mean that my job of managing my diabetes is over.
  2. I will still have to monitor the device and calibrate it twice a day, as it will be a necessity for me to enter my blood glucose levels before meals.
  3. Inputting information such as meals I plan to consume before I consume them is going to be part of the day to day running of the device.
  4. I anticipate error messages occurring
  5. Changing batteries and inserts.
  6. Insulin and glucagon cartridges will need to be refilled weekly.

We must remember that this device will still very much need our input and it will only be there as an aid. It will give us a much clearer depiction of how our blood glucose levels work in conjunction with different types of foods, exercise and stress at different times. Most importantly, it will give us a reprieve from the constant monitoring we do night and day. The pump has given me a degree of  freedom and I feel that this will be greatly amplified when, god willing, I get the chance to experience using the iLet.

My experience with the pump has allowed me to be more open to this new technology. This sophisticated innovation will undoubtedly be welcomed and I guarantee it will change the lives of so many type 1 diabetics worldwide.

 

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