Artificial pancreas for diabetic mums-to-be may cut stillbirths

An artificial pancreas implanted in diabetic pregnant women could cut cases of stillbirths and maternal deaths, research has suggested.

Research funded by charity Diabetes UK showed that a closed-loop insulin delivery system was able to improve glucose homeostasis in ten pregnant mothers with type-1 diabetes.

This artificial pancreas, created by combining a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) with an insulin pump, could be used in type-1 pregnant mothers to reduce stillbirths, maternal mortality and deformities in the infant.

High blood glucose in pregnancy increases the risk of stillbirths five-fold. Babies born to hyperglycaemic mothers are also three times as likely to die in the first months of life and twice as likely to have a major deformity.

Hypoglycaemia in pregnancy is also major cause of maternal mortality. Two thirds of mothers with pre-existing diabetes have type-1 diabetes.

In the study, researchers found the artificial pancreas automatically provide the correct amount of insulin at the right time, maintain near normal blood glucose levels and so prevent nocturnal hypoglycaemia in both early and late pregnancy.

Study lead Dr Helen Murphy at Cambridge University described the findings as ‘very promising’. She said: ‘These high blood glucose levels increase the risk of congenital malformation, stillbirth, neonatal death, preterm delivery, macrosomia [oversized babies] and neonatal admission. So to discover an artificial pancreas can help maintain near-normal glucose levels in these women is very promising.’

Diabetes UK director of research, Dr Iain Frame, said: ‘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.’

Research funded by charity Diabetes UK showed that a closed-loop insulin delivery system was able to improve glucose homeostasis in ten pregnant mothers with type 1 diabetes.

This ‘artificial pancreas’, created by combining a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) with an insulin pump, could be used in type 1 pregnant mothers to reduce stillbirths, maternal mortality and deformities in the infant.

High blood glucose in pregnancy increases the risk of stillbirths five-fold. Babies born to hyperglycaemic mothers are also three times as likely to die in the first months of life and twice as likely to have a major deformity.

Hypoglycaemia in pregnancy is also major cause of maternal mortality. Two thirds of mothers with pre-existing diabetes have type 1 diabetes.

In the study, researchers found the artificial pancreas automatically provide the correct amount of insulin at the right time, maintain near normal blood glucose levels and so prevent nocturnal hypoglycaemia in both early and late pregnancy.

Study lead Dr Helen Murphy at Cambridge University described the findings as ‘very promising’.

She said: ‘These high blood glucose levels increase the risk of congenital malformation, stillbirth, neonatal death, preterm delivery, macrosomia [oversized babies] and neonatal admission. So to discover an artificial pancreas can help maintain near-normal glucose levels in these women is very promising.’

Diabetes UK director of research, Dr Iain Frame, said: ‘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.’

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