A Banbury teenager is using a mobile phone app connected to a pump to deliver insulin as part of a groundbreaking study into type 1 diabetes.
Jack Newman volunteered for the study after he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in March 2017, aged 16. He is urging others to take part in NHS research as part of today’s World Diabetes Day.
Jack, now 17, said: “All I remember was being at home and then waking up in a hospital bed. It was a very scary experience, but it’s all a bit blurry and I don’t remember too much of it.
“I was ill for about two weeks before and getting worse and worse. I was being sick all the time, I couldn’t eat or drink anything and I lost around two stone in weight.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t get out of bed and it was progressively getting scarier and scarier and worse and worse, to the point that I had to call an ambulance.”
Jack, a Banbury and Bicester College student, spent two days as an inpatient at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital (JR).
People with type 1 diabetes lose the ability to produce insulin, which controls the amount of sugar in the blood, causing their levels to become too high. To manage this diabetics must inject insulin either using an insulin pump, or a syringe called an insulin pen.
Jack’s mother, Claire Newman, was contacted by researchers from the JR about the study in April last year.
Jack 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.”
The study involves an insulin pump connected via bluetooth to a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and a mobile phone app.
The CGM measures glucose levels and transmits these to the app to calculate how much insulin the pump needs to deliver.
The system is known as an artificial pancreas as the app adjusts the amount of insulin delivered by the pump according to the level of blood glucose mimicking the role of a normally functioning pancreas.
The study aims to find out if this method will preserve more of the bodies insulin producing cells than multiple daily injections.
Jack, who previously used an insulin pen, said: “It has helped my blood sugar a lot since I’ve been on the trial. The data from before I was on it until afterwards, shows before I was on it my blood sugars were higher.
“It’s made it a lot easier to eat when I’m going out. I don’t need to go into my bag and find my insulin and calculate how much I need. It’s just a lot quicker.”
The study is led by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Cambridge with funding and support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the Leona M & Harry B Helmsley Charitable Trust and type 1 diabetes charity JDRF.
Dr Rachel Besser, paediatric diabetologist, who leads the study at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We hope that this technology will control blood sugars better and preserve the function of the pancreas in children with type 1 diabetes.
“If the function of the pancreas can be preserved it makes living with diabetes that much easier; there will be less swings in blood sugar levels; less lows, and less highs after eating.
“In the longer-term that should reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications, such as eye disease, kidney disease and early death from heart disease.”
The study is open until 2019, for more information visit cloud.mrl.ims.cam.ac.uk or call 01865 231674.