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Artificial pancreas credited with transforming lives of children with diabetes

Managing type 1 diabetes in very young children can be improved by using a “life-changing” artificial pancreas, experts have said.

Children with type 1 diabetes can now wear a small gadget which monitors and administers how much insulin is required.

The CamAPS FX hybrid closed-loop system mechanically alters how much insulin is given to young children by constantly recording their glucose levels.

Developed by Professor Roman Hovorka from the University of Cambridge, the new device reduces diabetes-related burdens for parents of young children with type 1 diabetes as they would only need to observe and dispense insulin during meals.

New research has found that the CamAPS FX is currently the most successful technology at controlling young children’s blood sugars.

Prior studies have found that young people are at higher risk of developing hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia, with both conditions having the potential to cause serious harm.

Currently, most parents have to assess their child’s glucose levels and then physically administer the correct dosage of insulin.

The CamAPS FX hybrid closed-loop system mechanically alters the dosage of insulin it administers depending on the user’s glucose levels, therefore operating as an artificial pancreas.

During the study, more than 70 children with type 1 diabetes aged between one and seven used the CamAPS FX hybrid closed-loop system for four months and then another technological treatment for 16 weeks.

The researchers found that young children were in their target glucose range for 72% of the day when using CamAPS FX compared to 63% when using existing forms of technology.

Main author Dr Julia Ware said: “CamAPS FX led to improvements in several measures, including hyperglycaemia and average blood sugar levels, without increasing the risk of hypos.

“Parents have described our artificial pancreas as ‘life-changing’ as it meant they were able to relax and spend less time worrying about their child’s blood sugar levels, particularly at night time.”

Parent of six-year-old Sofia who has type 1 diabetes, Sam Wright said: “I feel like for the first time since the diagnosis I can relax. You wouldn’t know that she is any different from any of her classmates and that is thanks to the app.”

Senior Research Communications Officer at Diabetes UK, Dr Faye Riley said: “This important study shows that the artificial pancreas could be a safe and effective way to help very young children manage their type 1 diabetes and provides further evidence of its potential to transform how the condition is managed.”

The full research investigation is now available in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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