The new study eases concerns about how such a system would work in the real world, as opposed to in a lab setting, where exercise, diet and other factors can be controlled completely. The research shows, however, the system works better than traditional methods for patients to monitor their blood glucose.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder characterized by the pancreas producing too little or no insulin for the body. The artificial pancreas monitors glucose levels in the blood, delivering insulin when the body needs it.
The researchers presented results of a study to trial the device at the annual conference of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Sweden.
"The artificial beta cell, or closed-loop insulin-delivery system, expands on the concept of sensor-responsive insulin delivery," researchers wrote in a study documenting trials of the device, which is published in the New England Journal of Medicine. "The closed-loop system differs from conventional pump therapy and threshold-suspend approaches in that it uses a control algorithm that autonomously and continually increases and decreases the subcutaneous delivery of insulin on the basis of real-time sensor glucose levels."
In the study, researchers worked with 58 patients who had type 1 diabetes -- 33 adults used it day and night, and overnight by 25 children and adolescents -- who first used the artificial system for 12 weeks. The system includes a sensor to test patients' glucose levels and calculates when the appropriate time is to increase the level of insulin. All of the participants then used traditional sensor-augmented pump therapy for 12 months as a means of comparison.
The adults' glucose levels stayed within their target ranges 68 percent of the time when using the closed-loop system, as opposed to 57 percent of the time when patients were monitoring and dosing themselves. With the children, blood glucose levels stayed within target ranges 60 percent of the time with the closed-loop system but only 34 percent of the time when increased insulin injections were not automatic.
"We found that extended use of a closed-loop system at home over a period of 12 weeks during free daily living without close supervision is feasible in adults, children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes," the researchers wrote. "Improvements in glucose control and reductions in the burden of hypoglycemia were observed."
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