Insulin treatment for people with type 1 diabetes could soon see drastic improvement thanks to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)-funded scientists in Cambridge. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have just begun clinical trials of an “artificial pancreas” at Addenbrooke's Hospital.
The “artificial pancreas” can improve control over the wide fluctuations of a patient's glucose levels that, over time, lead to severe complications such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, amputations, blindness and premature death.
The artificial pancreas, spearheaded by Drs Roman Hovorka, David Dunger and Carlo Acerini of the Department of Paediatrics, combines two pieces of technology – an insulin pump and a continuous glucose sensor, which provides real time data about trends in glucose levels and alarms the patient to intervene if levels are heading too high or too low.
Dr Hovorka is working on perfecting the algorithm that enables the pump and sensor to “talk” to each other by testing the technology in children, who are the most challenging age group in which to achieve consistently normal glucose levels.
“This technology will enable a child with type 1 diabetes to achieve better glucose and HbA1c levels by automatically providing the right amount of insulin at the right time, just as the pancreas does in people without the condition,” said Hovorka. “Doctors and patients should be aware that this technology is coming.”
JDRF Chief Executive Karen Addington, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 12, says: “JDRF is funding the development of the artificial pancreas because we believe that it is the best possible ‘mechanical cure' for type 1 diabetes whilst we continue the search for a biological cure. Regulating blood glucose levels is vital to reducing the risk of the many devastating complications that can arise from type 1 diabetes.
“The artificial pancreas will also give everyone affected by the condition freedom from the enormous burden that comes with having to stick to a rigid timetable of multiple daily injections and finger prick blood tests. However this research will only be able to bring that relief if the insulin pumps, a vital part of the artificial pancreas, are made available to everyone that needs them. ”
This research was featured in a BBC Ten O'Clock News report by Health Correspondent Fergus Walsh July 5, 2007.
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