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New artificial pancreas may aid diabetes management in children

Wearable artificial pancreas can track a patient’s blood sugar level and adjust the amount of insulin given to keep it in a target range.

health and fitness Updated: Apr 05, 2017 15:26 IST
A representational image of liver and pancreas. Scientists have created artificial pancreas that may be able to better control the incidence of diabetes in kids.
A representational image of liver and pancreas. Scientists have created artificial pancreas that may be able to better control the incidence of diabetes in kids.(Shutterstock)

Researchers have developed a “smart” artificial pancreas that delivers insulin via an automated way and has shown to be effective in managing diabetes in children.

The wearable artificial pancreas can track the patient’s blood sugar level and adjust the amount of insulin given to keep the blood sugar in a target range.

“Up until now, parents and doctors have had to decide how much insulin to give young children throughout the day to avoid dangerously low or high blood sugars,” said lead investigator Mark DeBoer, Associate Professor at the University of Virginia.

“Our study data show, for the first time, that among young children, five to eight years old, this artificial pancreas maintains blood sugars in the target range better than the usual home regimen,” DeBoer added.

The artificial pancreas uses two available diabetes devices — an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor, which senses blood sugar levels on an ongoing basis.

Although these devices typically do not “talk” to each other, the experimental system connects the devices using sophisticated computer algorithms, DeBoer explained.

For the study, presented at the Endocrine Society’s 99th annual meeting in Orlando, the team tested the artificial pancreas and usual home care regimen for 68 hours in six boys and six girls with type 1 diabetes whose age ranged between five to eight years.

With the artificial pancreas, the children had a longer time in the target blood sugar range, which was 70 to 180 mg/dL: on average, 73% of the time versus 47% with their usual home care, DeBoer reported.

They also had far less time with high blood sugar levels (above 180 mg/dL) and there was no increase in episodes of low blood sugar.

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