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Artificial pancreas tested on diabetes patients

A new device could soon help people living with type 2 diabetes who also require kidney dialysis.

Tests led by a team from Addenbrooke's Hospital and the University of Cambridge show that a small portable device can help patients safely and effectively manage their blood sugar levels.

Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure, accounting for just under a third (30%) of cases.

As the number of people living with type 2 diabetes increases, so too does the number of people requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant.

There’s a real unmet need for new approaches to help them manage their condition safely and effectively

Dr Charlotte Boughton, University of Cambridge

Dr Charlotte Boughton from the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science at the University of Cambridge, who led the study, said:

“Patients living with type 2 diabetes and kidney failure are a particularly vulnerable group and managing their condition – trying to prevent potentially dangerous highs or lows of blood sugar levels – can be a challenge."

Artificial pancreas
The technology developed by the team at Cambridge uses an algorithm that can be accessed through an app

The artificial pancreas is a small, portable medical device designed to carry out the function of a healthy pancreas in controlling blood glucose levels, using digital technology to automate insulin delivery.

The system is worn externally on the body, and is made up of three functional components: a glucose sensor, a computer algorithm to calculate the insulin dose, and an insulin pump.

They were able to spend less time having to focus on managing their condition and worrying about the blood sugar levels

Senior author Professor Roman Hovorka

Senior author Professor Roman Hovorka, also from the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science, said:

“Not only did the artificial pancreas increase the amount of time patients spent within the target range for the blood sugar levels, but it also gave the users peace of mind. They were able to spend less time having to focus on managing their condition and worrying about the blood sugar levels, and more time getting on with their lives.”

Dr Boughton added:

“Now that we’ve shown the artificial pancreas works in one of the more difficult-to-treat groups of patients, we believe it could prove useful in the wider population of people living with type 2 diabetes.”

The team is currently trialling the artificial pancreas for outpatient use in people living with type 2 diabetes who do not need dialysis and exploring the system in complex medical situations such as perioperative care.

The research was supported by the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, The Novo Nordisk UK Research Foundation, Swiss Society for Endocrinology and Diabetes, and Swiss Diabetes Foundation and Swiss Kidney Foundation.

Reference

Boughton, CK et al. Fully automated closed-loop glucose control compared with standard insulin therapy in adults with type 2 diabetes requiring dialysis: an open-label, randomised crossover trial. Nat Med; 4 Aug 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41591-021-01453-z

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-021-01453-z