Patients with diabetes type 1 (DM1) struggle daily to achieve good glucose control. The last decade has seen a rush of research groups working towards an artificial pancreas (AP) through the application of a double subcutaneous approach, i.e., subcutaneous (SC) continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion. Few have focused on the fundamental limitations of this approach, especially regarding outcome measures beyond time in range.
Based on insulin physiology, the limitations of CGM, SC insulin absorption, meal challenge, and physical activity in DM1 patients, we discuss the limitations of the double SC approach. Finally, we discuss safety measures and the achievements reported in some recent AP studies that have utilized the double SC approach.
Most studies show that a double SC AP increases the time in range compared to a sensor-augmented insulin pump and shortens the time in hypoglycemia. Despite these achievements, the proportion of time spent in hyperglycemia is still roughly 20–40%, and hypoglycemia is still present 1–4% of the time. The main factors limiting further progress are the latency of SC CGM (at least 5–10 min) and the slow pharmacokinetics of SC-delivered fast-acting insulin. The maximum blood insulin level is reached after 45 min and the maximum glucose-lowering effect is observed after 1.5–2 h, while the glucose-lowering effect lasts for at least 5 h.
Although using a double SC AP leads to significant improvements in glucose control, the SC approach has severe limitations that hamper further progress towards a robust AP.