Have you heard about the JDRF's aggressive campaign to fast track development of a viable artificial pancreas? Yup, the organization's recently announced that it will pour $6.5 million of its research-support funds into development of continuous glucose sensors and other advancements that will expedite the realization of a fully functional closed-looped system.
* Illustrates the power of one individual's passionate advocacy. This whole thing got started because Jeffrey Brewer, one of the JDRF's board members whose son has diabetes, got a prescription for Medtronic's Guardian RT, the only continuous monitor currently approved by the FDA. But he discovered that the RT was unavailable. So the JDRF board approached Medtronic to ask what could
be done to make this technology more widely available. And JDRF's new campaign ensued. Shows you what a group of empassioned parents can do if they put their heads -- and their lobbying strength -- together.
* On the other hand, this ain't no bunch of irrational stage moms (and dads), either. The JDRF definitely requires due dilligence on research they'll fund. They don't want to waste precious dollars -- and hopes -- on anything not sanctioned by the scientific community. Case-in-point is the controversial work of Dr. Denise Faustman, whose promising results toward a potential cure were not repeatable by other researchers, and therefore passed up for funding by the JDRF. The point being that if the JDRF is backing work toward an artificial pancreas, chances are it's an undisputable step forward that will actually make a difference in Type 1 patients' lives soon.
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* Tempering that last point, a fully functional closed loop system (i.e. artificial pancreas) may still take decades to perfect, due to the obvious risks associated with automating insulin doses. But what this push by the JDRF will do for us now is to help jumpstart development and approval of continuous glucose monitoring products, which will provide a whole new diabetes reality vs. our current life with "episodic" monitoring. Besides the Guardian RT, two other real-time sensors are being evaluated by the FDA now: Abbott's Navigator and DexCom's STS, both of which look highly promising, as in, I'd use one right now if I could!
If you want to read more about what it's like to use a continuous monitor, visit Wil at his blog, LifeAfterDx. After years of suffering from severe hypoglycemic unawareness, Wil flew out to Austin on his own dime get himself a Guardian RT, which he also pays for out of his own pocket. He's had some trouble with the insertion site, but still he would "triple absolutely" recommend the product to others, he says.
Also for further reading, you can download the JDRF's paper on "How Close Are We to Closing the Loop?" in PDF format by clicking HERE.
Oooh, and finally, did you know: there's even an Artificial Pancreas Center at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia? Its director, Dr. Jeffrey Joseph, gets quoted in a lot of articles on "revolutionizing diabetes care," like this one from WebMD.