Australian first artificial pancreas a ‘game changer’

Australian with type 1 diabetes will have access to a new, Australian first device that works like an artificial pancreas.

Developed in consultation with patients and clinicians from around the world including St Vincent’s, the hybrid closed-loop insulin pump system works like an artificial pancreas, continuously monitoring blood glucose levels and automatically adjusting delivery of insulin to keep glucose levels stable in a healthy range.

Artificial pancreasIt is a long-awaited breakthrough in the Australian diabetes community in their quest to better manage the chronic disease. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that converts sugar into usable energy. It can impact both children and adults at any age and has a significant negative impact on quality of life.

A sensor is inserted under the skin and monitors glucose levels, sending the data to the pump every five minutes. The system then calculates the amount of insulin needed and automatically delivers it, based on the glucose sensor readings. As a result, the technology requires minimal input. People with type 1 diabetes only need to enter mealtime carbohydrates, accept bolus correction recommendations and periodically calibrate the sensor.

St Vincent’s Endocrinologist Professor David O’Neal, who was one of the first Australian researchers to trial the device on local patients, says the new device is a ‘game changer’!

‘While the new device does not represent a cure for diabetes, it does have the potential to significantly improve control of glucose levels, reducing damage to the body resulting from unstable glucose levels and improving the quality of life of people with type 1 diabetes.’

‘The goal in treating type 1 diabetes is to keep blood glucose levels as close to the normal range as possible which can be difficult to achieve,’ Professor O’Neal says. ‘A measured, constant supply of insulin is required because it is no longer being produced by the pancreas.

Leanne Foster is the first Australian to be fitted with this commercial device. Leanne has lived with type 1 diabetes since she was 11 years old, but even after 38 years, it is still impossible to predict how her blood sugar levels are tracking.

‘Hormones, stress and exercise can all impact my blood sugar levels,’ Leanne says.

Leanne says the system has meant her blood sugar was not dropping low, and she was experiencing less ‘brain fog.

‘For me the big bonus was that I slept restfully through the night so I woke up refreshed and able to be my ‘best’ me,’ Leanne says. ‘This device means I spend less time thinking about my diabetes and less time responding to, and recovering from, highs and lows.

‘I’m clear headed during the day and can go about my daily activity without having to factor in diabetes to every activity.’

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