May 2023

Print this issue

Health Capsule

Artificial Pancreas Helps Kids With Diabetes

In type 1 diabetes, your body mistakenly attacks and destroys certain cells in your own pancreas. These cells normally make a molecule called insulin. Without insulin, the sugar glucose builds up in your blood. This can cause serious health problems.

Current treatments for type 1 diabetes include frequent testing of blood glucose and insulin injections. But researchers have been working on a new approach called artificial pancreas systems. These automated systems contain a blood glucose monitor and an insulin pump. The monitor provides constant feedback to the pump. The pump then supplies insulin to the body when needed.

Past studies showed that such systems work well in adults and older children. Scientists tested an artificial pancreas system in 68 children, ages 2 to 5, with type 1 diabetes. They compared their blood glucose levels with those of 34 children receiving standard care.

After three months, children with the artificial pancreas showed more stable blood glucose levels than the kids getting standard care. They had about three more hours per day of better blood glucose control. The benefits were greatest during the night, when kids would be sleeping.

“Artificial pancreas systems have the potential to improve all-day blood glucose control in these young patients,” says NIH diabetes expert Dr. Guillermo Arreaza-Rubín. “This could help ease concerns about the long-term effects of type 1 diabetes on children’s health.”

More study is needed to see how well the artificial pancreas system works in young kids over long periods of time.