The device is called MiniMed 670G. It was developed by Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) and is referred to as a ‘hybrid closed-loop system’. It works by monitoring blood sugar – measuring it every 5 minutes (via an automated glucose monitor), then delivers the needed amount of insulin (using its own insulin pump and needle) based on the readings. It’s also designed to automatically withhold the release of insulin as soon as it detects a decrease in sugar levels. With these complementary functions, the risk of getting either excessive or inadequate amounts of insulin is minimized.
As great as this device sounds, it’s not yet perfect. Although the part about insulin monitoring and correct insulin dosage is already accounted for, there’s still the matter of calibrating the sensors every 12 hours to make sure that they are working optimally. The glucose sensors also have to be replaced once a week, while the insulin reservoir needs refilling every 3 days.
According to Medtronic, MiniMed 670G is set to be commercially available come spring season. Right now, the device can only be used by patients aged 14 and higher — the restriction set by the FDA approval. But Medtronic isn’t stopping there. They are currently conducting clinical trials on younger patients. If tests become successful as hoped, the device may eventually become available to all diabetes-1 patients, regardless of their age.
Based on statistics from the American Diabetes Association, approximately 1.25 million Americans are suffering from diabetes-1, an autoimmune disease that usually develops during childhood and is characterized by the body’s immune system attacking and destroying insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, to the point that the person’s pancreas stops producing insulin altogether. Insulin is the hormone needed by our body to get energy from the food we eat.
Persons with diabetes-1 are burdened with having to constantly be aware of how much they’ve eaten, how much exercise or physical activity they’ve done, what their blood sugar levels are, and how much insulin they need to inject themselves with so they can continue to live their lives.
Always having to measure your food intake is bad enough. But then you have to do multiple blood-sugar testings within the day too. And to top it all, you have to make sure you inject the right amount of insulin every time because an error in dosage can easily turn into a fatal mistake.
With Medtronic’s device, the testing and dosing parts are effectively covered. While it’s far from being a cure, no longer having to face this daily burden will surely be a welcome change for diabetes-1 patients who have probably given up long ago any hopes of being able to experience some semblance of a normal life.