Child Cambridge logoScientists seem to a step closer to delivering artificial pancreas for children with type 1 diabetes. That’s right! Experts from the University of Cambridge reveal to have taken a significant leap for the development of so-called ‘artificial pancreas’. These they claim are intended for the management of type 1 diabetes in children.

Supposedly the team has developed and tested successfully a novel algorithm for this very purpose. Hopefully it should offer a stepping stone to home testing for the artificial pancreas. According to the new study that sheds light on this development, the apparent use of artificial pancreas is quite beneficial.

The risk of hypoglycemia as per the scientists could be significantly lowered with the help of an artificial pancreas system particularly when the blood glucose level drop to dangerously low levels while sleeping. For both children and adults with type 1 diabetes, these so-called ‘hypos’ appear to be a cause of concern.

The scientists reveal an artificial pancreas system to combine a continuous glucose monitor with an insulin pump. With both these already on the market, coupled with a sophisticated algorithm, it may be possible to ascertain the correct amount of insulin to deliver on the basis of the real-time glucose readings. While it obviates the requirement of multiple daily finger prick tests and insulin injections, it should also allow enhanced control of blood glucose levels overnight.

For the new study around 17 children and teenagers aged between 5 and 18 with type 1 diabetes were analyzed during 54 nights at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. Next, the experts measured the effectiveness of the artificial pancreas system. They checked how well it controlled glucose levels as compared to the children’s regular continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (CSII) pump, which seemed to deliver insulin at pre-selected rates.

The nights when the children went to bed post eating a large evening meal or having engaged in early evening exercise was also included in the study. Both these instances are believed to be challenging to manage. A large evening meal may lead to ‘insulin stacking’, consequently resulting in a potentially dangerous drop in blood glucose levels later in the night. Late afternoon or early evening exercise on the other hand may augment the body’s need for glucose in the early morning. Hence it could increase the risk of night time hypoglycemia.

Lead author Dr Roman Hovorka of the Institute of Metabolic Science at the University of Cambridge mentioned, “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. This is the first randomized study showing the potential benefit of the artificial pancreas system overnight using commercially-available sensors and pumps. Our study provides a stepping stone for testing the system at home.”

On the basis of the pooled results, the team observed that the artificial pancreas seemed capable of keeping blood glucose levels in the normal range for 60% of the time. This was as against 40% for the CSII. They also appeared to half the time that blood glucose levels fell below 3.9mmol/l. The latter is the level considered as mild hypoglycaemia. Besides, it also seemed to prevent blood glucose falling below 3.0mmol/l which is defined as significant hypoglycaemia, as compared to nine hypoglycaemia events in the control studies.

The research is published this week in The Lancet.