Artificial pancreas may prove life-changing for young children with diabetes

pharmafile | January 21, 2022 | News story | Medical Communications  

Cambridge researchers have developed an artificial pancreas which may beat standard treatment in controlling Type 1 diabetes in young children. The technology is helping to protect particularly vulnerable people with the blood sugar disease. Forms of the technology are already available for adults and older children with Type 1 of the disease.

A study published on 20 January found that it is both safe to use and more effective at managing their blood sugar levels than current technology. Researchers writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, compared the performance of the artificial pancreas, against “sensor-augmented pump therapy”. The artificial pancreas uses an algorithm to determine the amount of insulin administered by a device worn by the child. 

To manage children’s glucose levels, doctors increasingly turn to devices that continuously monitor glucose levels and deliver insulin via a pump, which administers insulin through a cannula inserted into the skin. These devices have proved successful to an extent in older children, but not in young children. Management of Type 1 diabetes is challenging in very young children, because of a number of factors including the high variability in levels of insulin required and in how individual children respond to treatment, and their unpredictable eating and activity patterns. Children are particularly at risk of dangerously low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia) and high blood sugar levels (hyperglycaemia).

Professor Roman Hovorka from the Wellcome-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science at the University of Cambridge has developed an app – CamAPS FX – which, combined with a glucose monitor and insulin pump, acts as an artificial pancreas, automatically adjusting the amount of insulin it delivers based on predicted or real-time glucose levels.

Professor Hovorka explained: “CamAPS FX makes predictions about what it thinks is likely to happen next based on past experience. It learns how much insulin the child needs per day and how this changes at different times of the day. It then uses this to adjust insulin levels to help achieve ideal blood sugar levels. Other than at mealtimes, it is fully automated, so parents do not need to continually monitor their child’s blood sugar levels.”

Ana Ovey

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