Artificial pancreas effective in type 2 diabetes: trial

Friday, 13 January, 2023

Artificial pancreas effective in type 2 diabetes: trial

An artificial pancreas that combines an off-the-shelf glucose monitor and insulin pump with an app developed by Cambridge scientists has been successfully trialled by patients living with type 2 diabetes.

The device doubled the amount of time patients were in the target glucose range and and halved the time patients spent experiencing high glucose levels, as reported in Nature Medicine.

The app, known as CamAPS HX, utilises an algorithm that predicts how much insulin is required to keep a patient’s glucose levels within the target range.

Image caption: Artificial pancreas technology. Credit: Charlotte Boughton

The team has already demonstrated that an artificial pancreas run by a similar algorithm is effective for patients living with type 1 diabetes, from adults through to very young children. They have also successfully trialled the device in patients with type 2 diabetes who require kidney dialysis.

This new version, trialled for the first time in a wider population living with type 2 diabetes (not requiring kidney dialysis) is a fully closed loop system. The version for patients with type 1 diabetes requires patients to report that they are about to eat so that the artificial pancreas can adjust insulin levels accordingly, but the latest iteration functions automatically.

Dr Charlotte Boughton from the Wellcome-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science at the University of Cambridge, who co-led the study, said, “Many people with type 2 diabetes struggle to manage their blood sugar levels using the currently available treatments, such as insulin injections. The artificial pancreas can provide a safe and effective approach to help them, and the technology is simple to use and can be implemented safely at home.”

The researchers recruited 26 patients from the Wolfson Diabetes and Endocrine Clinic at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, part of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and a local group of GP surgeries.

Patients were randomly allocated to one of two groups — the first group used the artificial pancreas for eight weeks before switching to multiple daily insulin injections while the second group completed the trial in the reverse order.

The team used several measures to assess how effectively the artificial pancreas worked. The first was the proportion of time that patients spent with their glucose levels within a target range of between 3.9 and 10.0 mmol/L. On average, patients using the artificial pancreas spent two-thirds (66%) of their time within the target range — double that while on the control (32%).

A second measure was the proportion of time spent with glucose levels above 10.0 mmol/L. Patients taking the control therapy spent two-thirds (67%) of their time with high glucose levels — this was halved to 33% when using the artificial pancreas.

Average glucose levels fell from 12.6 mmol/L when taking the control therapy to 9.2 mmol/L while using the artificial pancreas.

The app also reduced levels of glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c). Glycated haemoglobin develops when haemoglobin joins with glucose in the blood, becoming ‘glycated’. The higher the HbA1c, the greater the risk of developing diabetes-related complications. After the control therapy, average HbA1c levels were 8.7%, while after using the artificial pancreas they were 7.3%.

Dr Aideen Daly, also from the Wellcome-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science, said, “One of the barriers to widespread use of insulin therapy has been concern over the risk of severe ‘hypos’ — dangerously low blood sugar levels. But we found that no patients on our trial experienced these and patients spent very little time with blood sugar levels lower than the target levels.”

One patient was admitted to hospital while using the artificial pancreas, due to an abscess at the site of the pump cannula.

Feedback from participants suggested that participants were happy to have their glucose levels controlled automatically by the system, and nine out of 10 (89%) reported spending less time managing their diabetes overall.

Users highlighted the elimination of the need for injections or fingerprick testing and increased confidence in managing blood glucose as key benefits. Downsides included practical annoyances with wearing of devices, and increased anxiety about the risk of hypoglycaemia — which the researchers said may reflect increased awareness and monitoring of glucose levels.

The team now plan to carry out a larger study to build on their findings and have submitted the device for regulatory approval with a view to making it commercially available for outpatients with type 2 diabetes.

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