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One man's incredible invention to save son

Father Helps Son With Diabetes, Develops 'Bionic Pancreas'

Father ​Ed Damiano has a nightly ritual.

An alarm clock goes off and he jumps up to check on his son, David, with Type I Diabetes.

And now, Damiano has developed something that may let him sleep through that alarm, especially as his son is approaching college age.

"He's 14 years old now and soon after he was diagnosed I realized that my background as mechanical engineering, applied mathematics, applied mechanics and I realized I had a certain skill set that leant itself to building a technology."

"That's where the bionic pancreas comes in. Using a continuous glucose monitor, blood sugar levels are checked every five minutes.​"
"That information is transmitted to a special iPhone app."

And that app figures out what the body needs - and then can give a shot of insulin or glucagon. It's delivered through an injection site.

According to NECN "The bionic device has three parts. Two cell phone sized pumps ... and an iPhone wired to a continuous glucose monitor. Three small needles go under the skin, usually in the belly, to connect patients to the components."

USA Today reports the bionic pancreas has been tested, and the results have been good. Damiano is hoping for FDA approval before his son leaves for college.

"People with type 1 diabetes who used a 'bionic' pancreas were better able to control their blood sugar levels than those who monitored their levels manually, a small new study shows."

As for the name "bionic pancreas"? Diabetes Daily let Damiano explain:

"It's a strange word, says Damiano, but accurate: 'It's an externally worn device that emulates biological function through mechanical means. It's a bio-pancreas.'"

Keeping blood sugar levels where they need to be is a delicate balance.

WebMD reports people with Type I diabetes, which has also been called juvenile diabetes, need to make sure their blood sugar isn't too high OR too low. Both can lead to a series of complications like eye and kidney damage, etc.

​Damiano's son David was diagnosed with diabetes before he was a year old, and as an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University, Damiano focused on helping his son. NPR reports it has been successful so far:

"...Damiano has gotten approval to launch a new round of testing. Dozens of adult and adolescent volunteers will use the system on their own for 11 days."

And according to NPR, the first of those volunteers have already started. David has faith in his dad, telling NPR he has just known his entire life his father was going to have the bionic pancreas ready by the time he leaves for college in 2017.

Join the discussion

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pafarmer11 June 16 2014 at 12:35 PM

How can I volunteer?

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Kathleen June 16 2014 at 1:28 PM

June 16, 2014
My son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in August of 2011 when he was 19 years old. Yesterday I had to take my son to the hospital because of DKA. He has been taken to the hospital many times by ambulance, and then we find out that his blood sugar was 1000, 1134, 1236 ect... is this new Bionic pancreas works I hope my son could get one. Good luck with all of the tests.

Kathleen Pieri - Coleman
Palm Harbor, Florida

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1 reply
joyfulnois Kathleen June 16 2014 at 3:11 PM

My daughter is also Type 1. I don't know if you have ever heard of the Omnipod - it's kind of like a disposable insulin pump, and each one is good for about 3 days or so- but that's gone a LONG way towards helping my daughter maintain better blood sugar rates. We've always had problems with her being able to do so well (add Attention Deficit Disorder into the mix - NOT a good combo!!) and while she still has issues sometimes, they are much fewer in number since we got the Omnipods.
I'm hoping this bionic pancreas does well, too, though.

Best wishes for your son.

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Le Anne June 16 2014 at 4:29 PM

I have been type 1 for 46 years. I have been dreaming of something like this for most of those years. I was 3 when I was diagnosed. Very few problems but to live with a little more freedom would be unimagineable.

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maryrose5 June 16 2014 at 5:52 PM

Type 1 is a special kind of hell. It's rampant with low and high blood sugars and the poor person is usually blamed for something so difficult and insidious to control. 31 years and counting.......when the cure costs more than the treatment we will be free of this nightmare

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dcdam1278 June 16 2014 at 11:36 PM

how can i get one of those or volunteer to use one im 64 years old and have had diabetes since i was 10 years old

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