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Latest Artificial Pancreas Trials Reduce Risk of Low Blood Sugar
Date:4/15/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 14 (HealthDay News) -- In the latest research to test the concept of an artificial pancreas for the management of type 1 diabetes, British researchers report that they were able to improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of dangerous low blood sugars overnight.

An analysis of pooled data showed that the overall time that plasma glucose levels were in target "increased by a median 28 percent" with the artificial pancreas, said the study's lead author Roman Hovorka, a principal research associate at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Hovorka's team is one of several working to produce an effective artificial pancreas, also known as a closed loop system or closed loop delivery.

An artificial pancreas combines existing diabetes management technology -- insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors -- with a sophisticated computer algorithm that tells these devices what to do when blood sugar levels are rising or falling.

The closed loop insulin delivery system, for example, computes insulin doses and administers them according to glucose levels detected by a sensor. The hope is that an artificial pancreas will closely mimic the way the human pancreas normally releases insulin in response to food or stress.

An effective artificial pancreas has the potential to vastly improve the lives of people with type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The autoimmune attack destroys so many beta cells that someone with type 1 diabetes can no longer produce the insulin the body needs.

Insulin is a hormone that's essential for the body to use sugar as fuel. Without replacement insulin, people with type 1 diabetes couldn't survive. But, replacing insulin isn't easy.

While too little insulin can b
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