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Artificial pancreas may help control Type 1 diabetes in pregnancy

Medical study suggests new advance to protect women with Type 1 diabetes – and their babies – who can be at risk because of the condition.

Image: PA Images/David Jones

THE USE OF an “artificial pancreas” may help pregnant women with diabetes, according to researchers.

Diabetes can be a notoriously difficult condition to regulate during pregnancy as hormonal changes affect blood sugar levels. This can increase the risk of diabetic women’s babies being stillborn or even put the life of the mother in danger.

Scientists from Cambridge University, funded by Diabetes UK, have found that the risk posed can include hypoglycaemic attacks in mothers with diabetes and other risks for the baby. Dr Helen Murphy told the BBC:

Half of all babies born to mothers with Type 1 diabetes are overweight or obese at birth because of too much sugar in the blood.

The researchers fitted ten diabetic mothers-to-be with artificial pancreases. The pancreas is the organ which produces insulin in just the right amount to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Those with Type 1 diabetes have a pancreas which does not produce enough insulin to control those levels.

It was found that the artificial pancreases were able to help maintain “near-normal” glucose levels in the women who were part of the Cambridge trial. More studies will be needed, involving larger numbers of women, before the artificial pancreas can be considered as a regular treatment for pregnant women with Type 1 diabetes.

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