Techno Trends

The big ideas that are changing everything

Bionic Pancreas

Type I diabetes (previously known as juvenile diabetes) occurs when the pancreas fails to produce insulin – a hormone that converts sugar and other starches into energy. It affects more than 200,000 people in the U.S. and can only be managed through careful monitoring of food intake, activity, and blood glucose levels, along with regular injections of insulin and glucagon. But a new device currently undergoing clinical trials may free patients from the burden of managing their disease on a day-to-day basis.

A wireless glucose monitor implanted under the user’s skin sends a signal every five minutes to an iPhone app. The app determines how much insulin or glucagon is necessary to bring blood sugar levels back into balance and signals a small pump to deliver the required dosage automatically through a catheter.

More than 50 patients (age 12 and older) have participated in studies to compare the new device with their usual routines of finger-pricks and manual insulin pumps. With more frequent checks and the ability to monitor round-the-clock, the new device did a better job of managing the disease, and gave participants a glimpse of what it would be like to live without diabetes. If all goes well and the device is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, in about three years’ time, many more diabetes patients may be able to experience that same freedom.

For information: Edward Damiano, Ph.D., Boston University, Department of Biomedical Engineering, 44 Cummington Street, Boston, MA 02215; phone: 617-353-2805; fax: 617-358-6766; email:; Web site:

Daniel Burrus' Top Twenty Technology-Driven Trends for 2014