Artificial pancreas a “game-changer” for Type 1 diabetes

Leanne Foster is the first Australian adult to be fitted with a system that continuously monitors her blood glucose levels and automatically adjusts insulin delivery

A new “artificial pancreas” currently being trialled could dramatically transform the lives of people with type 1 diabetes, says the University of Melbourne.

The artificial pancreas is a hybrid closed loop system, which continuously monitors the patient’s blood glucose levels and automatically adjusts delivery of insulin to keep her glucose levels stable.

It utilises a synthetic insulin pump about the size of a small mobile phone, which is linked to a glucose sensor inserted into the fat just under the skin of the abdomen.

The sensor sends glucose information back to their pump every five minutes, and the pump then calculates how much insulin to deliver.

Patients at seven Australian hospitals will be participating in the study over six months, while researchers evaluate the impact of the artificial pancreas on their glucose levels, quality of sleep and psychological wellbeing.

Ms Foster, 47, is part of a University of Melbourne trial is being run by Associate Professor David O’Neal at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.

A/Prof O’Neal says the new device is a “game changer”.

“While the new device does not represent a cure for diabetes, it does have the potential to very significantly improve control of glucose levels thereby reducing damage to the body resulting from glucose levels outside a health range, and also improve the quality of life of people with type 1 diabetes,” he says.

Ms Foster had type 1 diabetes for 36 years and says she has noticed results almost immediately after having the system installed

“It’s very exciting. It’s amazing technology. My blood sugar levels are the closest they have been to a non-diabetic person in 36 years,” she says.

She hopes the study will lead to the closed loop system being approved for subsidised use in Australia.

Other hospitals participating in the study include Royal Melbourne Hospital (Vic), The Alfred Hospital and Baker Institute (Vic), Westmead Hospital (NSW), Royal Hobart Hospital (Tas), Repatriation Hospital (SA), and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (WA).

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