An insulin pump which almost functions like an artificial pancreas has been fitted into a four-year-old Australian boy and researchers are saying it is the world’s first treatment for type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is characterized by high blood glucose levels due to the inability of the pancreas to produce insulin. Xavier Hames is the lucky boy and the first patient to use the new device following clinical trials. The device is the size of an mp3 player and is attached to the boy’s body using several tubes inserted under the skin. It is basically an insulin pump which relieves the patient from the need to closely manage the disease. The device was developed after five years of clinical trials at the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children and at other Australian hospitals. It is reported to cost about US$8,100.
“The technology mimics the biological function of the pancreas to predict low glucose levels and stop insulin delivery,” Western Australia’s health department said. “This in turn avoids the serious consequences of low glucose such as coma, seizure and potential death.” The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), a non-profit organization which funded the research that led to the procedure, said the technology tracks glucose levels and stops insulin delivery up to 30 minutes before a predicted hypoglycemic attack happens. The attacks are sparked by low glucose levels and mostly take place at night when patients may not be able to react or recognize the potentially fatal episode. “This device can predict hypoglycemia before it happens and stop insulin delivery before a predicted event,” Jones, one of the lead doctors involved in the research, said in a statement. “This coupled with the fact that the pump automatically resumes insulin (delivery) when glucose levels recover is a real medical breakthrough.”
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