I’m going to start with a disclaimer that I am not acting as a medical professional for the purpose of this blog although I am an RN. I’m not an expert on any one’s diabetes care but my own and the words contained in this blog come from personal experience and my own opinion only.
There, now that that’s out of the way…
I had a very exciting day last week where I was being considered as a subject for the next leg of the Bionic Pancreas clinical trails. The Bionic Pancreas (BP) is one of the few closed loop systems usually referred to as an Artificial Pancreas (AP), for lack of a better, more accurate word. This device is the result of a collaboration between Boston University and Dr Ed Damiano & Massachusetts General Hospital’s diabetes research and Dr Stephen Russell. What makes this AP different from the others is that ultimately it will be a bi-hormonal system, meaning it will administer both insulin and glucagon. Many scientists are looking for a more stable form of glucagon than the current standard that is only stable for 24 hours. It is rumored that a company in the United States has developed a form of glucagon that is equally as stable as insulin but is not available just yet. They’re still working on it. Hopefully soon!!
I actually had the device IN MY HANDS!!!! I couldn’t believe I was about to use the bionic pancreas as it is now. But after an hour and a half of learning the intricacies and how to use the device, all my hopes were dashed!!! The researcher frowned when I mentioned (AGAIN!!! As I had also mentioned in my initial email.) that I am a surgical type one. She then proceeded to tell me I was not eligible to participate due to my not being a “pure” diabetic. WHAT???!!! Because I did not have autoimmune type one diabetes (T1D) (apparently referred to as pure diabetes) they declined my offer to participate.
I was devastated and found myself explaining to the researcher that although the origin of my T1D was not autoimmune, my lack of a pancreas made my diabetes behave identical to any one with an autoimmune T1D. She left the room to ask someone with a little more authority than herself in regards to the study but came back with the same, “I’m sorry but you’re ineligible.
I had held the Bionic Pancreas in my hands!!!!! This little unassuming device has the potential to change my diabetes life and the cognitive burden of dealing with diabetes decisions 24/7 but because I’m “unpure”, I’m not a candidate. I thanked her and let myself out trying to hold back tears. I don’t cry easily but I had assumed I would come home with my own loaner BP because I had explained my surgical status to the intake research assistant who did not say I was ineligible. I really believe in this developing technology and the Bionic Pancreas in particular, so I was devastated to find out I couldn’t participate.
I’ve been following the progress of the Bionic Pancreas since my surgery in 2013 and have always felt it would be the treatment of choice for me when it finally gains FDA approval and hits the market. ( Just a reminder, I had my pancreas removed in 2013 due to 27 years of chronic pancreatitis. I also had a failed auto-islet transplant which means they transplanted back into my body my own islet cells in the hopes I would not become a person with diabetes (PWD) On my return trip home I started to think that maybe because I was a surgical T1D, when it finally comes on the market, will I also be ineligible from using it because of my unpureness???? This was a disturbing thought to me. The Bionic Pancreas, to me, is like the Holy Grail. The research they are collecting points out that this little device made by BetaBionics (the new company started to eventually market the product) significantly improves blood glucose (BG) control as compared with usual care.
Luckily, Ed Damiano, CEO of BetaBionics and co-lead researcher from Boston University, was speaking locally the same week that I was turned down. I trekked on over to the venue to listen to him speak and to ask him personally to think about including surgical T1D’s into the clinical trials.
As he presented a brief history of the BP and then showed us the new trial data, I was even more in love with this little box that hopefully one day will improve my brain space from having to make countless diabetes decisions in my day to day life!! After he was through presenting, there was the usual Q&A where I asked him about including us surgical, unpure PWD. He remarked that my visit just a few days prior and my trying to make a case to allow me to participate resulted in a flurry of emails between many of the researchers eventually making it to Dr Damiano”s and Dr Russell’s inboxes.
The result of all those emails is that from this point forward, surgical T1D’s WILL BE INCLUDED in further legs of the trials!!!!! WOO HOO!!!! Music to my ears!!!! However, I was still not going to be able to participate in the current study that started this last week. That’s OK though!!! A good friend of mine, Sarah MacLeod from the blog, “What Sarah Says” is participating and it would have been so cool if we could have done it together. But, I’m going to have to live vicariously through her as she goes on with the study. Also, at the most recent meet up of our Boston South Diabetes Sisters PODS group, I discovered that one of our attendees is also participating. This is so cool!! Although I’m not an active participant, I will be able to experience it through these women’s eyes & get their perspectives on the device.
If you know anyone with surgical diabetes, let her or him know that they CAN participate in these particular T1D BP trials, as can “pure”, autoimmune T1D people. Have you considered participating in any kind of medical research trials? What type? & what was your experience? I’m very interested in science and medicine in particular, so the thought of being included as a clinical research trial subject is very exciting. Stay tuned because this artificial pancreas (again not the most accurate word) area of study is booming especially with Medtronics soon releasing their 670G closed loop system. Anyone using it yet?? I’m interested in how that works too!!
Thank you for taking the time to read my post and HAPPY SPRING!!!!!