In a recent test, an artificial pancreas has provided overnight blood glucose management potential in a test group of pregnant women suffering from Type 1 diabetes. The results show great promise in developing new technologies and techniques aimed to lower stillbirth, abnormalities and deaths in babies of Type 1 diabetic women.
The Diabetes UK sponsored the study with Dr. Helen Murphy of Cambridge University as the study head. The artificial device used a closed loop insulin delivery system. The results are to be published in Diabetes Care, online on January and in print by February.
Ten pregnant Type 1 diabetes women were attached with an artificial pancreas and it was seen that the device was able to provide the proper levels of insulin at the right time to maintain their blood glucose at normal levels.
Another breakthrough in the use of the device was the prevention of nocturnal hypoglycemia or low blood glucose levels at night, which commonly occurs in the first trimester and also in the third trimester. This was also the first time an artificial pancreas was used on pregnant women.
The artificial pancreas is essentially two devices. The first part is a continuous glucose monitor and the second part is an insulin pump. These devices are commonly used separately by diabetes patients. In current statistics, two thirds of pregnant women diagnosed with diabetes suffer from Type 1 diabetes.
There are particular concerns for diabetics undergoing pregnancy, mainly due to the many hormonal changes that pregnancy makes on the woman’s body. This together with the diabetes, makes it more difficult to manage blood glucose levels especially in the evenings.
Mothers with diabetes are five times more likely to deliver still born babies. The risk of babies dying in the first three months is three times more likely compared to normal mothers. Babies born of diabetic mothers also run twice the amount of risk in developing major abnormalities compared to those without the condition.
Dr. Murphy highlighted that high blood glucose levels increases the occurrence of congenital abnormalities, stillbirth, neo natal death, preterm delivery, macrosomia or oversized babies and neonatal admission. On the other hand, hypoglycemia is also a major cause of death among pregnant women.
She added, “For women with Type 1 diabetes, self-management is particularly challenging during pregnancy due to physiological and hormonal changes.”
Dr. Iain Frame, Director of Research for Diabetes UK said that the study was a fantastic example of how insulin pumps and glucose monitors can be utilized to expand the assistance for those with the condition.
“Although early days, this exciting area of research, funded by our donors, has huge potential to make pregnancy much safer for women with Type 1 diabetes, and their babies,” said Frame.
“We now need to see an extension of this study, one which tests larger numbers of women, and then take it out of the hospital and in to the home setting,” he added.
Bobby Castro is the online editor at the Diabetes Forum, where he has published a number of articles about general diabetes and many other topics.