Type 1 diabetes: Artificial pancreas ‘life-changing’ for very young children, experts say | Science and technology news

An artificial pancreas has been shown to be “life-changing” for very young children with type 1 diabetes, experts have said.

The device, created by researchers at the University of Cambridge, is more effective at controlling blood sugar levels than current technology.

And according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the app-based technology also requires less input from parents.

The app was developed by Professor Roman Hovorka of the Wellcome-Medical Research Council Institute of Metabolic Science at the University of Cambridge.

CamAPS FX App (Image: Phil Mynott)
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The CamAPS FX app. Photo: Phil Mynott

He said: “CamAPS FX is making predictions about what it thinks is likely to happen next time based on past experience.

It learns how much insulin the baby needs per day and how it changes at different times of the day.

“It then uses it to adjust insulin levels to help achieve ideal blood sugar levels. Except at meals, it is fully automatic so parents do not have to constantly monitor their child’s blood sugar levels.”

Type of administration 1 diabetes is challenging for very young children due to variation in the level of insulin required and how each child responds to treatment, as well as unpredictability around how much they eat and exercise.

Children are particularly prone to dangerously low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) and high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia), which can both harm the body or even lead to death.

How does the new technology work?

This sensor-augmented pump therapy requires parents to monitor their child’s glucose levels using a monitor and then manually adjust the amount of insulin they need.

But the app, combined with a glucose monitor and insulin pump, acts as an artificial pancreas that automatically adjusts the amount of insulin it releases based on predicted or real-time glucose levels.

Sofia Wright and her mother Sam (photo: Phil Mynott)
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Her mother Sam says technology has revolutionized her care. Photo: Phil Mynott

Sam Wright, mother of six-year-old Sofia, used to take blood samples with her daughter’s finger and set alarms at night to check her glucose levels.

But the CamAPS FX app has revolutionized Sofia’s care.

Wright said: “I have full confidence in the CamAPS FX app and I feel for the first time since the diagnosis that I can relax.

“You would not know that she is different from any of her classmates, and that’s thanks to the CamAPS FX app.”

Prof. Hovorka worked in seven centers in the UK and Europe, recruiting 74 children with type 1 diabetes aged one to seven years to participate in their clinical trials.

This compared the safety and effectiveness of hybrid closed-loop therapy with standard sensor-enhanced pump therapy.

What trusts does CamAPS FX make available?

All children used the CamAPS FX hybrid closed-loop system for 16 weeks and then used the sensor-augmented pump therapy for 16 weeks.

On average, children spent about three-quarters of their day (72%) in the target range of their glucose levels when using CamAPS FX – almost nine percentage points higher than current technology.

The app also reduced the average blood sugar level when using a measure known as glycated hemoglobin or HbA1c.

CamAPS FX is available through several NHS trusts, including Cambridge University Hospital’s NHS Foundation Trust.

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