Local patients test new self-regulating insulin pump

Health & Fitness

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IDAHO FALLS — A local diabetes center is giving few patients a chance to use a revolutionary insulin device.

On Thursday, Rocky Mountain Diabetes Center trained eight volunteers on the Medtronic MiniMed 670G, the first hybrid, closed-loop insulin pump.

Insulin helps regulate blood sugars in the body. In type 1 diabetes, the patient’s pancreas produces little or no insulin, which means the patient has to regularly monitor sugar levels in the blood and adjust insulin intake accordingly. There is no cure.

“(The device is) a pump combined with a sensor,” said Becky Sulik, RMD study coordinator and dietitian said. “It’s the first of its kind to actually interact with the blood sugar and do some of the automation.”

Compared to a standard insulin pump for type 1 diabetes, this new technology automatically tests a person’s blood glucose level regulating the insulin more consistently. It still requires some level of human interaction such as finger pricking tests.

“The sensor is inserted in the skin, and the sensor measures blood glucose every five minutes,” Sulik said.

On a standard insulin pump, patients typically have to enter their blood sugars periodically and input what they’re eating. The pump then administers doses to match the information.

“With a regular insulin pump, patients would have to check their blood sugars frequently and then they would make adjustments. They would do a lot of thinking,” Sulik said.

This new device eliminates most of those steps. The MiniMed 670G can tell whether a person’s blood sugar level is trending high or low, and regulate insulin accordingly.

Patients still have to do finger stick testing but not nearly as often. They have to program into the pump how many carbs they’re consuming and the pump will adjust the insulin dosage.

If patients are having to wake during the night to check their levels, this pump can help bypass that step.

“The pump is designed to respond to the blood sugar. As the blood sugar is going up, the pump can change the insulin delivery to match that or if the sugar is going down the pump can reduce or shut off the basal delivery to help control blood sugars. It’s the first pump ever to be able to do that. It does that based on the sensor that works with it,” Sulik said.

Medtronic MiniMed 670G as seen at the Rocky Mountain Diabetes Center | Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com

Brian Wood of Idaho Falls is a volunteer who received early access to the device. He’s had type 1 diabetes for 20 years and is looking forward to the added independence the pump will bring.

“(The pump is) a little bit more hands off. The pump is more self-regulating rather than depending on me for everything,” Wood said. “I’m excited to not have to worry and focus so much on the diabetes part of my life and be able to focus on other aspects of my life.”

Rocky Mountain Diabetes is one of few sites in the country to offer this product. It received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval last fall and will be available soon to most patients. The product is approved for patients 14 and older. Sulik said the diabetes center is a trial site for children and she’s currently working with kids on this new technology.

“It just takes some of the burden off. It’s really intense to manage type 1 diabetes where you have to worry about your exercise and your eating,” Sulik said.

Along with the convenience the pump should help prevent long term issues some may have with diabetes. Sulik said the technology is working its way to a fully self-regulating device.

“Where we’re going with this eventually is we’ll have a pump that will do everything. I think that will happen,” Sulik said.

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