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Artificial pancreas for pregnant women with diabetes

31st January 2011

Researchers have said that an artificially designed pancreas could help to prevent deaths in pregnant women who have diabetes.

pregnancy

The research was funded by Diabetes UK and revealed that an artificial pancreas could help to ensure blood sugar stays within "normal" levels.

Diabetic women who become pregnant have to cope with hormonal changes that make the regulation of blood sugar problematic.

If a person has type 1 diabetes, they cannot keep their blood sugar levels controlled as their pancreas fails to produce insulin.

Type 1 diabetes can be managed with regular insulin injections, but this becomes more difficult during pregnancy.

Embryos and developing babies can be harmed by blood sugar levels which are safe for an adult.

A previous study of pregnant women in England, Northern Ireland and Wales showed that women with the condition had four times the danger of suffering a stillborn baby or a baby who dies within the initial week of birth.

Dr Helen Murphy, from Cambridge University, 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."

Researchers at Cambridge University gave artificial pancreases to 10 women who had type 1 diabetes.

Blood sugar levels were controlled by means of a pump, which was controlled by a computer which told it how much insulin to inject.

Dr Murphy said: "For women with Type 1 diabetes, self-management is particularly challenging during pregnancy due to physiological and hormonal changes. So to discover an artificial pancreas can help maintain near-normal glucose levels in these women is very promising."

 

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