An artificial pancreas may change the lives of type 1 diabetics. Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic compared the conventional insulin pump it to an artificial pancreas for the first time, and found artificial is the way to go.

"I think what we can say is that the artificial pancreas is definitely better than the conventional insulin pump," Dr. Betul Hatipoglu, an endocrinologist at Cleveland Clinic who was not involved in the study, told Live Science. "There is no question about it." The artificial pancreas is needed "immediately" in clinical practice, Hatipoglu said.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition usually diagnosed in childhood and treated with daily insulin injections. The pancreas produces and controls sugar levels in the blood. Investigators found fewer patients experienced reaching the dangerous hypoglycemic stage of their condition. Hypoglecemia is characterized by low blood sugar, also known as insulin shock. It can happen quickly and the condition can cause anxiety, sweating, chills, confusion, sleepiness, blurry vision, weakness, and tingling or numbness.

“Our study confirms that both artificial pancreas systems improve glucose control and reduce the risk of hypoglycemia compared to conventional pump therapy," said the study’s co-author Ahmad Haidar, of Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montreal, in a statement.

Researchers, whose study was published in the The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, studied how two different types of artificial pancreases compared to an insulin pump in 30 patients. While the insulin pump delivered only insulin, the pancreases delivered either insulin and glucagon or solely insulin. The patients returned to the clinic three times for 24 hours during which time the researchers tested a different device. Not only did the artificial pancreas reduce the risk of hypoglycemia, but is also improved glucose control.

"Given that low blood glucose remains very frequent during the night, the fear of severe nocturnal hypoglycemia is a major source of stress and anxiety especially for young diabetic children," said the study’s coauthor Dr. Laurent Legault, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Montreal Children's Hospital, in the statement.

Only five percent of the diabetic population have type 1, but it still affects millions of people. Insulin is a hormone necessary to convert sugar, starches, and other foods into energy that’s needed for daily life. Without proper conversion, diabetics cannot function on a daily basis and will damage organs. The ongoing search for a solution to the condition has been competitive, but an artificial pancreas may be the best treatment out there. Researchers believe the artificial pancreas will be available in the next five to seven years with the goal of managing glucose overnight.

"These artificial pancreases are advancing very fast, and I hope we will have something in the market before 2020," Hatipoglu said. "This will improve the patient care dramatically, compared to [treatment using] the conventional insulin pump."

Source: Haidar A, Rhabasa-Lhoret R, Legault L, Messier V, Mitre T, Leroux C. Comparison of dual-hormone artificial pancreas, single-hormone artificial pancreas, and conventional insulin pump therapy for glycaemic control in patients with type 1 diabetes: an open-label randomised controlled crossover trial. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. 2014.