Bihormonal Bionic Pancreas – using both insulin and glucagon

This study demonstrates a great advancement in the field of type 1 diabetes. A full artificial pancreas, called “bihormonal bionic” shows superior results compared to the traditional CGM-assisted insulin pump.

The bihormonal system utilizes both insulin and glucagon to maintain steady blood glucose levels, resulting in better glycemic control with less hypoglycemia. No carbohydrate counting is needed by the patient. Although of short duration, 11 days, the results are very promising.


The Lancet

Randomized Crossover Study

December 2016

Background: The safety and effectiveness of a continuous, day-and-night automated glycaemic control system using insulin and glucagon has not been shown in a free-living, home-use setting. We aimed to assess whether bihormonal bionic pancreas initialized only with body mass can safely reduce mean glycaemia and hypoglycaemia in adults with type 1 diabetes who were living at home and participating in their normal daily routines without restrictions on diet or physical activity.

Methods: We did a random-order crossover study in volunteers at least 18 years old who had type 1 diabetes and lived within a 30 min drive of four sites in the USA. Participants were randomly assigned (1:1) in blocks of two using sequentially numbered sealed envelopes to glycaemic regulation with a bihormonal bionic pancreas or usual care (conventional or sensor-augmented insulin pump therapy) first, followed by the opposite intervention. Both study periods were 11 days in length, during which time participants continued all normal activities, including athletics and driving. The bionic pancreas was initialised with only the participant’s body mass. Autonomously adaptive dosing algorithms used data from a continuous glucose monitor to control subcutaneous delivery of insulin and glucagon. The coprimary outcomes were the mean glucose concentration and time with continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) glucose concentration <60 mg/dL, analysed over days 2–11 in participants who completed both periods of the study. This trial is registered with, number NCT02092220.

Findings: We randomly assigned 43 participants between May 6, 2014 – July 3, 2015, 39 of whom completed the study: 20 who were assigned to bionic pancreas first and 19 who were assigned to the comparator first. The mean CGM glucose concentration was 140 mg/dL in the bionic pancreas period versus 162 mg/dL in the comparator period (p<0·0001), and the mean time with CGM glucose concentration <60 mg/dL was 0.6% in the bionic pancreas period versus 1.9% in the comparator period (p<0·0001). The mean nausea score on the Visual Analogue Scale (score 0–10) was greater during the bionic pancreas period (0·52) than in the comparator period (0·05; difference 0·47, p=0·0024). Body mass and laboratory parameters did not differ between periods. There were no serious or unexpected adverse events in the bionic pancreas period of the study.

Interpretation: Relative to conventional and sensor-augmented insulin pump therapy, the bihormonal bionic pancreas, initialised only with participant weight, was able to achieve superior glycaemic regulation without the need for carbohydrate counting. Larger and longer studies are needed to establish the long-term benefits and risks of automated glycaemic management with a bihormonal bionic pancreas.

Funding: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.