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Diabetes Health Center

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Breakthrough in Creating Artificial Pancreas

System Allows for Continuous Monitoring of Blood Sugar at Night

Nighttime Risk: Low Blood Sugar continued...

During certain nights, the delivery systems were challenged by having the children eat a large meal or exercise before bedtime. Both of these activities increase the risk for nighttime hypoglycemia.

While using the artificial pancreas system, the children maintained blood sugar levels in the normal range 60% of the time, compared with 40% of the time while using a conventional insulin pump.

No significant hypoglycemic events were reported with the experimental system, compared with nine events with the conventional pump. And the children and teens experienced mild hypoglycemia half as often with the experimental system.

The study appears today online in The Lancet.

"We showed that this first-generation artificial pancreas can improve nighttime blood sugar control," study researcher Roman Hovorka, PhD, of the University of Cambridge, tells WebMD. "This is critically important because between 50% and 70% of hypoglycemic emergencies happen at night."

Next Step: Home Studies

Hovorka says the next step is to test the system in the home setting.

If that goes well, he says the artificial pancreas could be clinically available within three to five years for overnight use.

It will probably take longer to determine if the system can be used 24 hours a day. Daytime blood sugar control, especially around mealtimes, poses a special challenge.

Even if the first-generation artificial pancreas proves beneficial only for nighttime glucose control, Kowalski says this would still be a major advance in the treatment of insulin-dependent diabetes.

"Many parents are up every night to test their child’s blood sugar, and many live with the fear that their child won’t wake up in the morning," he says. "This could ease some of that burden for people with this disease and their loved ones."

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