Australian researchers believe they are one step closer to developing an artificial pancreas for people with diabetes.
A Sydney-based diabetes expert and a Queensland artificial intelligence specialist have tested the prototype of a software program that could replicate the role of a human pancreas.
If a clinical trial works as well as the prototype, it could be a breakthrough for the lives of those with type 1 diabetes who have to inject insulin daily, they say.
Jenny Gunton from Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Nigel Greenwood of the University of Queensland say the device would work by measuring a patient's blood glucose levels and delivering the dose of insulin required - as a normally-functioning pancreas does.
"The ultimate aim for a 'mechanical cure' for type 1 diabetes would be to have a closed loop system - where you have an insulin pump which knows how much insulin to give at the right time," said Professor Gunton.
"So you have glucose monitoring and insulin administration in the same machine, with very smart pump software keeping people's blood glucose normal."
In the project, funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, two virtual patients had data supplied from real people with diabetes. Their medical data, including blood glucose levels, was then simulated.
The software developed by Dr Greenwood, called Neuromathix, calculated suggested insulin dosages for the patients and their blood glucose was analysed over 55 simulated days.
The researchers found that target blood glucose levels were achieved over 90 per cent of the time - compared to the average person with diabetes who hits the target 60 per cent of the time.
"What we have just done couldn't have been done 10 years ago. We are dealing with a profoundly complex model involving many unknowns," said Dr Greenwood.
He hopes the software will reach the market in 2016 after a clinical study and trial.