Artificial pancreas could help diabetic pregnant women

Tue, 01 Feb 2011
An artificial pancreas has been developed to help pregnant women with diabetes, and which could offer a lifeline to the mother and bring improvements in the health of their babies, making pregnancy safer.

The research, by the Medical Research Laboratories in Cambridge and funded by the charity Diabetes UK, is aimed at controlling levels of blood sugar in pregnant diabetic women, as people with type 1 diabetes have trouble regulating their levels due to hormonal changes during pregnancy and their pancreas stopping the production of insulin .

During pregnancy the safe range for levels of blood sugar becomes much narrower, and around half of all babies born to mothers with type 1 diabetes are overweight or obese at birth due to the problem of too much sugar in the blood.

The researchers fitted artificial pancreases, which allow the body to maintain sugar at normal levels, to 10 women with the disease, with a sensor monitoring sugar levels, and telling a computer when and how much insulin is needed.

Helen Murphy, from Cambridge University, commented "For women with type 1 diabetes, self-management is particularly challenging during pregnancy due to physiological and hormonal changes."

She added "These high blood glucose levels increase the risk of congenital malformation, stillbirth, neonatal death, preterm delivery, macrosomia [oversized babies] and neonatal admission. So to discover an artificial pancreas can help maintain near-normal glucose levels in these women is very promising."
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