Cambridge study trials artificial pancreas for Type 2 diabetes

artificial pancreas, type 2 diabetes
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A new artificial pancreas, powered by a patient’s smartphone, is working well for outpatients of type 2 diabetes

The new device could change the way that type 2 diabetes is handled – replacing insulin injections entirely.

A team at the University of Cambridge and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has previously developed an artificial pancreas with the aim of replacing insulin injections for patients living with type 1 diabetes. The study has shown that the device can be used to support patients living with both type 2 diabetes and kidney failure.

The team worked with researchers at Bern University Hospital and University of Bern, Switzerland.

How does the artificial pancreas work?

The artificial pancreas is powered by software in the user’s smartphone that sends a signal to an insulin pump to adjust the level of insulin the patient receives. A glucose monitor measures the patient’s blood sugar levels and sends these back to the smartphone to enable it to make further adjustments.

The artificial pancreas is a small, portable medical device designed to carry out the function of a healthy pancreas in controlling blood glucose levels, using digital technology to automate insulin delivery. The system is worn externally on the body, and is made up of three functional components: a glucose sensor, a computer algorithm to calculate the insulin dose, and an insulin pump.

Does it work better than insulin?


The artificial pancreas adjusts itself to give out the level of insulin the body needs. It brought time spent in the target blood sugar range up from 36% on the first day to 60% on the twentieth day. The algorithm is crucial to this, as it reads and responds to the body’s needs – as opposed to waiting for a manual adjustment from a doctor via finger-prick blood sugar checks.

‘There’s a real unmet need for new approaches’

Dr Charlotte Boughton from the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science at the University of Cambridge, who led the study, said: “Patients living with type 2 diabetes and kidney failure are a particularly vulnerable group and managing their condition – trying to prevent potentially dangerous highs or lows of blood sugar levels – can be a challenge.

“There’s a real unmet need for new approaches to help them manage their condition safely and effectively.”

‘Less time managing their condition’

Senior author Professor Roman Hovorka, also from the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science, said: “Not only did the artificial pancreas increase the amount of time patients spent within the target range for the blood sugar levels, but it also gave the users peace of mind.

“They were able to spend less time having to focus on managing their condition and worrying about the blood sugar levels, and more time getting on with their lives.”

Read more about this study here.


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