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'Artificial' pancreas offers hope for type 1 diabetes

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A device which acts as an ‘artificial pancreas’ can control overnight blood sugar levels in Type 1 diabetes sufferers, research has shown.

Cambridge scientists have developed a sensor with an insulin pump to measure glucose levels in children which may cut the risk of hypoglycaemia while they sleep.

The system takes real-time glucose readings from the body to calculate how much insulin to give, compared with a regular pump which delivers continuous medication throughout the night.

In a study of 17 children and teenagers with Type 1 diabetes, the artificial pancreas proved more effective than the regular pump, as it kept blood sugar levels in the normal range for 60% of the time rather than 40%.

It prevented blood glucose dipping below 3.0mmol/l, which is the “significant hypoglycaemia” level, and halved the number of times it fell below the ‘mild hypoglycaemia’ level of 3.9mmol/l.

Control groups using the regular pumps had nine significant hypos.

Dr Roman Hovorka, who led the study published in The Lancet, said: “Our results show that commercially-available devices, when coupled with the algorithm we developed, can improve glucose control in children and significantly reduce the risk of hypos overnight.”

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