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Type 1 diabetes: Artificial pancreas helps kids control sugar levels - Study

Emeh Joy
By Emeh Joy

Basic Medical Scientist, Freelance Health Writer, Lifestyle Blogger and Business Enthusiast

Advances in artificial pancreas system: New study finds that artificial pancreas helps children with type 1 diabetes control their blood glucose levels

Artificial pancreas is safe and has helped children as young as six who have type 1 diabetes better control blood sugar levels, a new study says.

The new study is from researchers at four pediatric diabetes centers in the United States and was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

How the research on the effect of artificial pancreas on kids with type 1 diabetes was carried out

The researches studied 101 children who were aged between six and 13 for four months in a randomised clinical trial.

They compared an experimental group using a new artificial pancreas system with a control group using a standard continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device and separate insulin.

An artificial pancreas system will automatically monitor and regulate blood glucose levels. The system is not implanted into patients but instead makes use of a computer to coordinate the monitoring of glucose with the insulin pump.

From the study, those who used the artificial pancreas had a 7% improvement in the maintenance of their blood glucose levels within the targeted range during the day and even a more significant percentage of improvement (26%) at night when compared to the control group.

The artificial pancreas resulted in nearly 11% improvement overall in keeping blood glucose level within range. It offered an extra 3 hours per day compared to continuous monitoring and an insulin pump the study also discovered.

What researchers say about the artificial pancreas system

The researchers who worked on the new study said, "For type 1 diabetes, controlling blood glucose levels at night is crucial because severe, unchecked hypoglycemia can lead to a seizure, coma or even death".

Previous research showed that the artificial pancreas system is safe in people who are 14 and above

Also, Dr Paul Wadwa, protocol chair and paediatrics professor at the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes at the University of Colorado, Aurora, said in a statement:

"The improvement in blood glucose control in this study was impressive, especially during the overnight hours, letting parents and caregivers sleep better at night knowing their kids are safer.

"Artificial pancreas technology can mean fewer times children and their families have to stop everything to take care of their diabetes. Instead, kids can focus on being kids."

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the study, the artificial pancreas system replaces fingerstick testing or CGM and insulin injections multiple times a day or a controlled pump.

NIDDK described the artificial pancreas or "closed-loop control" as an "all-in-one" diabetes management system which uses CGM to track blood glucose levels and uses an insulin pump to deliver it when needed automatically.

Dr Guillermo Arreaza-Rubin, the director of the NIDDK's Diabetes Technology Program who is also a project scientist with the study, said;

"Fewer than one in five children with type 1 diabetes are able to successfully keep their blood glucose in a healthy range with current treatment which may have serious consequences on their long-term health and quality of life".

Arreaza-Rubin further said previous research showed that the artificial pancreas system is safe in people who are 14 years old and older.

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