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Artificial pancreas app for type 1 diabetes patients launched after University of Cambridge research

An artificial pancreas app that enables insulin to be delivered automatically to people with type 1 diabetes was launched on Monday.

The world-first downloadable licensed app, CamAPS FX, follows 13 years of research by Professor Roman Hovorka at the University of Cambridge and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

A screenshot of the artificial pancreas app. Picture: University of Cambridge (31752165)
A screenshot of the artificial pancreas app. Picture: University of Cambridge (31752165)

It works with an insulin pump and a glucose monitor to deliver insulin via a complex algorithm.

Prof Hovorka, who hopes it will become available on the NHS in future, said: “This is a major stepping stone towards providing widely available, clinically proven, and user-friendly artificial pancreas technology to people with type 1 diabetes.

“Our aim is to alleviate the ever-present burden of type 1 diabetes and improve health outcomes. This is the outcome of hard work, with more to come. We are indebted to all who are helping us on this journey.”

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic, life-threatening condition that causes a life-long impact and affects 400,000 people in the UK, including 29,000 children.

It is caused when the pancreas does not produce insulin, meaning blood sugar cannot be controlled.

Patients must use finger-prick blood tests and insulin injections or infusions to stay alive.

But the new app takes over much of the management of the condition, which is particularly valuable at night when many people with the condition suffer potentially dangerous low blood glucose levels.

The app, licensed for adults and children, is able to upload the user’s blood glucose measurements to the online platform Diasend, enabling its diabetes team to provide more personalised care.

It is the first artificial pancreas system licensed for use in pregnancy, and by young children aged one and above.

Fiona O’Reilly, who has been using the app as part of a clinical trial, said: “Overall, it makes me feel free. It is the closest I have been to living without the burden of type 1 diabetes since I was diagnosed, which is a fabulous feeling – I feel less fearful of hypoglycaemia, and less ashamed of the fact that I find achieving good glycaemic control so tricky.

“And it makes me feel more positive of my future with diabetes, that I have a chance of avoiding all the associated complications. It also makes me feel lucky to live in a time where this technology is possible and really grateful to be given the chance to try it out.”

The app is being supported at launch by a small number of UK diabetes clinics. Those who wish to use it must confirm which clinic they attend and be using a Dana RS pump and a Dexcom G6 continuous glucose monitor.

Prof Hovorka and his research group at the Wellcome-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science see the app’s launch as a milestone on the way to a fully automated artificial pancreas for everyone with type 1 diabetes.

They hope the launch will help generate the data needed to support the case for its availability on the NHS, and it will be refined through research into mealtime glucose control.

Ultimately, it will be capable of working with a range of insulin pumps and glucose monitors.

Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, Diabetes UK, the National Institute for Health Research, the National Institutes of Health, Horizon 2020 and The Leona M and Harry B Helmsley Charitable Trust helped fund the research behind it.

Karen Addington, UK chief executive of JDRF, said: “JDRF is proud to have supported Professor Hovorka’s artificial pancreas research from the beginning, nearly 15 years ago. This app is a major innovation and a significant milestone on the road to a fully automated and interoperable artificial pancreas. There’s still more work to do, but this is an exciting step.”

The app is available in the UK for Android phone users via the Amazon Appstore, with subscriptions starting at £70 per month.

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