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Research in Cambridge

The University of Cambridge is home to one of the eight core research groups that make up the JDRF Artificial Pancreas Consortium. This research is only possible thanks to the generosity of JDRF supporters, who have taken the project to their hearts.

The Cambridge team is lead by Dr Roman Hovorka, a specialist in creating computer programmes that mimic how the body works. His team are creating the sophisticated computer programme that links the continuous glucose monitor to the insulin pump.

Dr Hovorka’s team are focusing on developing an artificial pancreas system specifically for children, solving one particular aspect of living with type 1 diabetes – controlling glucose levels overnight.

‘Parents of children with type 1 diabetes told us that night-time is the time of day they worry about most’ said Janet Allen, one of the team’s research nurses.

The team are developing a system that would be able to take over managing insulin delivery at bedtime, and will keep the glucose levels in check until the child wakes up in the morning.

The computer programme developed by the Cambridge team was first tested using computer modelling to see whether it could theoretically cope with all of the possible scenarios that might occur during the night.

When the team were confident that the system would work well, they asked for volunteers from the local diabetes clinic, at Addenbrooke’s hospital, to try out the system.

The children all used insulin pumps already. They were asked to spend two nights in hospital.

The first night was ‘business as usual’, so the team could monitor what was happening overnight normally. The second night, the artificial pancreas system was used to make adjustments to how much insulin should be delivered through the night.

The results were dramatic.

The team are now working on refining the system, understanding how it works in more challenging circumstances – such as after exercise or a large evening meal. The team are also working towards getting a system ready for families to test out at home. This will give a good understanding of how the system works in ‘real life’ – not just in the hospital setting.

This vital research is expensive, and still needs your support – to continue to make progress, JDRF must invest hundreds of thousands of pounds each year. Find out more about how you can support JDRF’s research programme here

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