Artificial pancreas trial success in babies and toddlers

Posted on 31 January 2019

Toddler lying next to baby

The artificial pancreas is a safe and effective treatment for very young children, according to the results of the latest trial.

24 children from ages one to seven trialled the technology day and night for six weeks at home.

They spent on average 70% of time with glucose levels in range, and experienced no severe hypos or ketoacidosis.

This is the first and longest trial of its kind to test artificial pancreas technology in such young children under normal living conditions.

The artificial pancreas consists of a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), an insulin pump and a computer programme working together to automate background insulin delivery.

These results will help to secure access to this technology for babies and little children with type 1 diabetes when it is approved for use in the UK.

Why did they do this research?

The artificial pancreas holds promise as a new form of treatment as it could improve the health and quality of life of people living with type 1 diabetes.

JDRF has supported Cambridge-based Professor Roman Hovorka to develop an artificial pancreas since 2006.

Professor Hovorka has been testing his artificial pancreas in increasingly larger and more diverse groups of people with type 1 diabetes, to see if they could benefit from the technology

Managing type 1 in very young children is particularly challenging as they need very small amounts of insulin. In addition, they may not be able to communicate their needs with their caregivers, or administer their treatment themselves.

In this trial, Professor Hovorka’s team wanted to test whether the artificial pancreas was suitable for very little children, and whether using diluted insulin was more effective than regular insulin.

What did they do?

24 children in the UK and in Austria took part in the trial.

The researchers trained the parents in how to use the artificial pancreas, and then the children wore the technology while carrying out their lives as normal.

The children trialled both regular and diluted insulin in the artificial pancreas. They spent three weeks on one type of insulin before swapping to the other type of insulin for a further three weeks.

What did they find?

There was no difference in results depending on the type of insulin used.

The children spent on average 70% of time within the target glucose range of 3.9 – 10 mmol/L.

Importantly, there were no cases of severe hypos or ketoacidosis as a result of the artificial pancreas.

What does this mean for type 1?

New treatments have to be tested extensively to check as far as possible that they are safe and effective for people with type 1 diabetes.

These results are encouraging as they show that the artificial pancreas system could be a suitable treatment for very young children.

If approved for use, this technology could bring greater peace of mind to parents and caregivers of young children with type 1 diabetes.

What’s the next step?

The team aim to carry out longer studies with a larger number of participants to test how effective the artificial pancreas is in comparison to other treatment methods.

 

Researcher with microscope

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