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Artificial pancreas systems safe for insulin-dependent diabetics

10% of all diabetes cases are type 1

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

Artificial pancreas systems are "safe and effective" for people with type 1 diabetes, a new study suggests.

Type 1 diabetes patients' immune systems destroy their insulin-producing pancreatic cells and they need to inject insulin to stay alive.

To achieve the proper blood sugar levels patients need to constantly monitor blood glucose levels - usually through finger pricking - and endure multiple daily injections or use an insulin pump.

An emerging treatment is an artificial pancreas, a device that is designed to release insulin in response to changing blood glucose levels in a similar way to a human pancreas.

A new study, published in the journal BMJ, examined all of the research to date on the use of such items.

Researchers from Greece and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, examined 40 trials on the topic.

They found, although there were some limitations with current research, that: "Artificial pancreas systems are an efficacious and safe approach for treating outpatients with type 1 diabetes."

Their study found that patients fitted with the devices had longer periods of normal blood sugar throughout the night and over a 24-hour period.

The authors concluded: "In view of all the available evidence from randomised controlled trials, artificial pancreas treatment significantly improves glycaemic control while reducing the burden of hypoglycaemia in outpatients with type 1 diabetes."

Commenting on the analysis, Emily Burns, head of research communications at Diabetes UK, said: "Diabetes UK has supported research to develop the artificial pancreas for decades, so this analysis of current evidence is a promising step in the right direction for people with type 1 diabetes.

"While the artificial pancreas isn't the cure people with type 1 diabetes are waiting for, evidence suggests it could make a significant difference to how the condition is managed. This could also have the potential to reduce the risk of devastating complications.

"There's still work to be done to understand the full benefits of the artificial pancreas; until then, it's essential that people with type 1 diabetes have access to the currently available technologies - such as pumps or continuous glucose monitoring - that can help make living with this serious condition that bit easier."

Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 10 percent of all diabetes cases.

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