Artificial pancreas tech for type 1 diabetes: How does it work?

New technology could make some of the complications linked to diabetes ‘a thing of the past’, experts say (PA Wire)
New technology could make some of the complications linked to diabetes ‘a thing of the past’, experts say (PA Wire)

More than 100,000 people with type 1 diabetes in England and Wales may soon get access to innovative technologies through the NHS.

The new technology automatically determines how much insulin is administered via a pump using a glucose sensor placed under the skin.

Health experts claim that, in the absence of a cure, it is the best method for managing diabetes.

How does it work?

Approximately 29,000 children and 400,000 adults in the UK now suffer from type 1 diabetes. Their pancreas generates very little or no insulin, a crucial hormone that aids with converting food into energy.

This new device automatically simulates the function of a pancreas, though it still needs data on food intake to function properly.

In order for the artificial pancreas to work, a sensor is placed under the skin to automatically measure blood sugar (glucose) levels.

Then readings are sent wirelessly to a pump which calculates the amount of insulin required. Users can monitor readings on a smartphone, which also allows them to input the amount of carbohydrates being eaten at meals.

With the help of the new tech, people with type 1 diabetes may now live their daily lives without worrying about whether their blood sugar levels are dangerously high or low.

Why does it only target type 1 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes, which is significantly more frequent, is not the same as type 1 diabetes. While both conditions result in elevated blood-glucose levels, type 1 is an auto-immune disorder where the body assaults pancreatic cells.

As a result of the body's cells developing insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes patients, more insulin is required to maintain normal blood-glucose levels. Usually, diet, exercise, and careful observation can regulate it. It is more tricky with type 1 diabetes.

How much will it cost the NHS?

The technology currently costs nearly £6,000 but National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says it is negotiating a price for the NHS that “is fair to taxpayers”.

The UK regulator, the MHRA, has approved the use of the technology, which is already being implemented in Scotland.