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December 27, 1999

Research: Monitoring

Question from Minnesota, USA:

Why isn't there a device that would combine an insulin pump with blood glucose testing? Something that would test your blood every few minutes and adjust the pump dosage accordingly. With a pump, you already have something plugged into you. Can't this probe do blood glucose testing, too? With all the advances in technology, this does not seem to be a far-fetched idea.


The combination of a insulin pump with a glucose sensor into an external pancreas has long been the philosopher’s stone in treating insulin dependent diabetes. The group that is nearest to this goal is MiniMed who presently market a very sophisticated pump and subcutaneous glucose sensor. They are also developing a single unit combining the separate mechanisms of pump and sensor. It is likely to be some years though before the two can be safely combined because of the need to design and test absolutely failsafe mechanisms to ensure that errors and variations in the sensor don’t lead to dangerous errors in insulin administration.

Additional comments from Dr. Quick:

There was a device in the past called the Biostator that combined a glucose sensor (that withdrew blood from a vein) and a pump (that pumped insulin into a blood vessel). It was bigger than a suitcase, and required a full-time technician to baby-sit it. It was used primarily in research studies, although it also found a bit of use in hospital care for people with diabetes.