Sometimes the world of technology and medicine collide in such a way to make one stop in his tracks in awe and glimpse into the future of possibilities.

Sometimes the world of technology and medicine collide in such a way to make one stop in his tracks in awe and glimpse into the future of possibilities.

It’s sort of like when I would watch “The Jetsons” or “Star Trek” as a kid – only the future is now. Such are the feelings I have when I read of the development and pending clinical availability of artificial pancreas devices. All science, no fiction. The future is here. Artificial pancreas devices and type I diabetes, what do you know, T or F?

1. About 1 million Americans have type I diabetes.

2. Actress Halle Berry and singer Bret Michaels have type I diabetes.

3. Artificial pancreas devices are approved in Europe.

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration will issue detailed guidelines for artificial pancreas devices. It’s more than just pie in the sky thinking: such devices have been used in Europe for about three years with good results. The dedicated work of researchers at the University of Virginia and around the globe is coming to fruition faster than most of us have realized. Technology and innovative minds are conspiring to change the lives of those with type I diabetes forever.

Type I diabetes is a condition where the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas are destroyed by the body’s own immune system. Specific causes are unknown but involve environment, genetic and other factors. Type I diabetes usually strikes in childhood and young adulthood. According to Department of Heath and Human Services, diabetes, both type I and II, is the seventh leading cause of death and the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower-limb amputations and new cases of blindness among adults in the U.S.,

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (www.jdrf.org) has been an enthusiastic advocate for the development and approval of artificial pancreas devices. They have been critical of the FDA for what they see as an onerous approval process. The FDA counters by pointing out that the devices are not without risk. Too much or too little insulin can lead to life threatening conditions. This is what the FDA is safeguarding against with its new guidelines. However, both groups are encouraged by early reports from Europe which indicate that the devices can be safe and effective.

It is expected that an artificial pancreas device will be approved by the FDA sometime in 2012. When it is, it will change the lives of the 3 million Americans with type I diabetes. The devices use sensors in the skin to detect blood sugar levels and a small sophisticated computer-based device, worn by the patient, delivers the right amount of insulin. No regular needle sticks and measuring of insulin.

For kids (and parents and physicians) in our area, Children’s Mercy Hospital is a godsend and no doubt will be a primary resource as artificial pancreas devices emerge from research labs into clinics.

We have glimpsed the future, and for those with type I diabetes, their families, friends and school nurses everywhere, the future is upon us. None too soon.

Answers: 1. F about 3 million 2. T 3. T