Artificial pancreas could mean fewer hypos for Type 1 Diabetes patients

17 June 2014
A pioneering artificial pancreas has been hailed a success after the first long-term test in patients.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge and Cambridge University Hospitals have developed a device which helps to manage overnight blood sugar levels in patients with Type 1 Diabetes.The device improved the amount of time patients spent overnight with healthy blood sugar levels by 13.5 per cent. The study was published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology Journal.

The trial was conducted in 24 adult patients with Type 1 diabetes using the machine in their own home each night for a period of 4 weeks. This is the first time the device has been used for more than a few days without medical supervision.  The artificial pancreas is worn outside the body and linked to a glucose sensor under the skin. Blood sugar levels are measured and the information transmitted to an insulin pump, which releases the right amount of the hormone into the body.

Participants in the study, funded by charity Diabetes UK, switched on the device after their evening meal and turned it off again before breakfast the next morning. Every 12 minutes, the software adjusted the amount of insulin administered by the pump.

Dr Roman Hovorka, lead researcher, said: “The system was able to adapt and safely cope with these variations to achieve more consistent glucose control. Now that we’ve tested the system at multiple centres, we can see that its benefits apply to a wide range of individuals.

“A large-scale clinical trial of the artificial pancreas will now be the next step in helping to translate these exciting findings into an end product that will help to transform the management of Type 1 diabetes by achieving consistent glucose levels and reducing the risk of blood glucose levels falling dangerously low during the night.”

About 300,000 people in the UK suffer from Type 1 diabetes, which destroys insulin-making islet cells in the pancreas, making it necessary to have regular injections of the hormone.

June 2014