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Case study: Artificial pancreas helps Jack manage his diabetes

An Oxfordshire teenager who is using a mobile phone app connected to a pump to deliver insulin as part of a study into type 1 diabetes is urging others to take part in NHS research.

Jack Newman of Banbury, Oxfordshire, is using a mobile phone app connected to a pump to deliver insulin as part of a study into type 1 diabetes.

He was diagnosed with the condition at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital in March 2017, aged 16.

People with type 1 diabetes lose the ability to produce insulin, which controls the amount of glucose, or sugar, in the blood, causing their levels to become too high. This can cause serious long-term health problems such as blindness, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Most people with diabetes have to inject insulin after meals with a syringe called an insulin pen.

Jack learned of the study when a research nurse contacted his mum, Claire Newman, a month after his diagnosis. He said: “I wanted to take part right away. The main thing that persuaded me was that I wouldn’t have to use an insulin pen anymore.”

In the CLOuD study, an insulin pump is connected via bluetooth to a continuous glucose monitor and a mobile phone app.

A pump is a portable device given to people with diabetes to deliver insulin through a tube placed under the skin. A continuous glucose monitor is a sensor attached to the skin which measures glucose levels and transmits these to the app to calculate how much insulin the pump needs to deliver.

This is known as an artificial pancreas because the app adjusts the amount of insulin delivered by the pump according to the glucose levels present, as the pancreas does in those without diabetes.

Researchers want to find out if an artificial pancreas is more effective at preserving the body’s insulin producing cells in the pancreas than multiple daily injections with an insulin pen. 

Participants are randomly allocated to receive insulin injections or an artificial pancreas for two years, to compare the two.

Jack, who was allocated the artificial pancreas, said: “The first couple of times injecting I was off about it because it was stabbing myself with a needle and I wasn’t used to it. It’s like pricking your finger, it will hurt for a second and then it will be fine.

“The pump’s easier to use, it’s more convenient. If I need insulin, I don’t need to find my pen. It’s made the adjustment from not having diabetes to having it so much easier. It’s made my whole treatment for diabetes so much less stressful."