The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first closed-loop artificial pancreas system, the MiniMed 670G from Medtronic.

The race to develop an artificial pancreas has been on for years, accelerated as both continuous glucose monitors (CGM) and insulin pumps became more technically advanced individually. More than three years ago, we highlighted three active studies testing these kinds of systems, some of which were using smartphones as the processing hub to link those two devices.

The MiniMed 670G is a closed-loop system for delivery of basal insulin. Basically, it will collect data from the CGM and adjust the basal dose of insulin being delivered by the insulin pump. Bolus doses of insulin, like those released by the pancreas at mealtime, still have to be manually entered by the patient. So while it does represent a leap forward, it doesn’t quite completely replace a pancreas just yet.

A natural next step will be to integrate other kinds of data into the algorithm used by the MiniMed system to better tailor insulin dosing to patient needs. For example, it would be interesting to see whether real-time activity data could help adjust insulin dosing to account for exercise. Meal tracking apps could help patients get better insights into how different foods affect them individually and enable more personalized bolus insulin dosing with meals. And similar data, collected on a large scale through emerging digital patient cohorts, could similarly support more personalized management strategies.

And like any “first” medical device, unexpected challenges, opportunities, and innovations will pop up in the coming years. And as noted by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), there is a lot of technology in the pipeline that’s getting ready for prime time including 18 other artificial pancreas systems.

Source: FDA