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Artificial Pancreas System Shows Promise in Type 1 Diabetes

In a study in children and teenagers with type 1 diabetes, researchers have shown that using a first-generation artificial pancreas system overnight can lower the risk of low blood sugar emergencies while sleeping, and at the same time improve diabetes control. The closed-loop system combined commercially available blood glucose sensors and insulin pumps, controlled by a sophisticated computer program that determined insulin dosage based on blood glucose levels while participants slept. Maintaining recommended blood sugar levels overnight is a major issue for people with type 1 diabetes--and particularly for the families of children with diabetes--because of the possibility of blood glucose dropping dangerously low during sleep and going unnoticed, which can lead to seizures, coma, and in some cases be fatal. Notably, the study showed that the children and teenagers spent twice as much time during the night within targeted blood glucose levels when their diabetes was regulated with the artificial pancreas system than when they followed conventional "manual" therapy—and low blood sugars were minimized. "Without a doubt, the biggest worry for parents of kids with type 1 diabetes is that their child will have a low blood sugar emergency during the night, when they're hard to identify," said Dr. Aaron Kowalski, Assistant Vice President of Metabolic Control at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and Director of the JDRF Artificial Pancreas Project. "This study is proof of principle that diabetes in kids can be safely managed overnight with an artificial pancreas. We need to redouble our efforts to move the artificial pancreas from a concept in the clinic to a reality in the home of kids and adults with type 1." This study, funded by the JDRF and carried out by researchers at the University of Cambridge and colleagues, is described online in the February 5 issue of The Lancet. [Press release] [Lancet abstract] [NY Times article]