Each year on November 14, World Diabetes Day is observed around the globe to help raise awareness about the growing health threat it poses. Diabetes has exploded worldwide, from 108 million people with the disease in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. Just ahead of this year’s observance, a clinical trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health has found that a new type of treatment improves control of type 1 diabetes while freeing patients from the burden of constant monitoring.
The multi-center trial evaluated a new system called the artificial pancreas. This all-in-one, “closed loop” diabetes management system tracks blood glucose continuously via a sensor under the skin, and automatically delivers insulin when needed using an insulin pump. Such systems replace patients’ reliance on finger stick tests as well as having to inject themselves with insulin multiple times each day.
The study showed that the artificial pancreas system maintained participants’ blood glucose control, both throughout the day and during the night. Overnight glucose control is a common but serious challenge for children and adults with type 1 diabetes, since blood glucose can drop to dangerously low levels while they are sleeping.
Called the International Diabetes Closed-Loop Study, the Phase III tests involved five separate artificial pancreas protocols conducted at 10 research centers in the U.S. and Europe. During the six-month study, participants continued their usual day-to-day routines, so that researchers could test the systems under real-world conditions.
“Earlier technologies have made the management of type 1 diabetes easier. This research shows that this artificial pancreas system has the potential to improve the health of people living with type 1 diabetes, while also potentially lifting much of the burden of care from those with the disease and their caregivers,” said Guillermo Arreaza-Rubín, M.D., project scientist for the study.
The research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.