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  • NSW researchers develop bionic pancreas

    Author: AAP

Australian researchers believe they have built a smartphone-linked "bionic pancreas" for diabetics that is more accurate than other artificial pancreases in development.

For more than a decade scientists in Australia and around the world have been working to develop a bionic pancreas that could free those with type 1 diabetes from the daily ordeal of managing their disease.

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Now a team of engineers from University of Newcastle and diabetes researchers from Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) have made a portable artificial pancreas that they say is smarter than other competing devices.

Professor Graham Goodwin, of University of Newcastle, said the device uses a highly sophisticated algorithm to calculate and deliver precise insulin dosages.

If a clinical trial planned for 2015 works as well as the approved simulator, it could be a breakthrough for the lives of those with type 1 diabetes who have to inject insulin daily, they say.


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"It's early days but we think we have a chance of building a world-beating system with smarter technology and better blood glucose management than other therapies have offered," said Prof Goodwin.

"In our modelling we can control blood glucose levels to within five per cent accuracy, but it's likely the unit will need to be calibrated to the individual and be adaptive with time."

Type 1 diabetes, the kind often found during childhood, is managed by monitoring of blood glucose levels regularly and then administering insulin via injection or an insulin pump.

The pump can be programmed to mimic the natural release of insulin by dispensing small doses regularly but it does not automatically adjust to the patient's variable insulin needs.

The artificial pancreas will help eliminate the guesswork from diabetes management, said Dr Bruce King, a pediatric endocrinologist at John Hunter Children's Hospital.

"Children and their parents currently have to calculate how many carbohydrates are in a meal and check the blood glucose level every time they eat to work out the insulin dose, but this method doesn't factor in other nutrients which can have a bearing," Dr King said.

"The device will do it for them. That means fewer needles, fewer blood tests and more accurate results."

Carly Stephen, mother of nine-year-old Jack who has diabetes, has served as an advisor to the researchers during the scoping process.

"Jack is on an insulin pump, which is a lot better than needles for us but still unpredictable," Mrs Stephen said.

Mrs Stephen and her husband perform a finger-prick test on Jack between 10 and 15 times a day.

This will be negated by the artificial pancreas.

"The insulin dosage will be automated and more accurate than we can achieve," Mrs Stephen said.

Copyright AAP 2014


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