By Charlotte Hamlyn
A four-year-old Perth boy has become the first patient in the world to be fitted with a new pancreas-like pump which researchers say will improve the lives of diabetics of all ages.
Xavier Hames suffers from type 1 diabetes and is at constant risk of hypoglycaemia – when low glucose levels can result in seizures, coma or death.
But a pump that can predict when blood sugar levels are becoming dangerously low and halt the release of insulin, has changed that.
Professor Tim Jones, from Perth’s Princess Margaret Hospital, said the device would make life a lot easier for the parents of type 1 diabetes sufferers, especially at night time when the risk of hypoglycaemia is higher.
"Most parents have to get up two or three times a night to check glucose levels and this might make them feel a little safer at night time if they know they've got this automated system that's going to prevent low glucose," he said.
Professor Jones said the technology was not limited to children. "It's just as important in adults if they're living alone or at risk of having problems with their glucose levels. It'll work in any age group," he said.
The battery operated pump delivers insulin through a plastic tube which is pushed under the skin. The pump lasts about four years before it has to be replaced. It is similar to other insulin pumps already on the market, but contains a predictive sensor.
Xavier's mother, Naomi, said it will have a significant impact on her son's life.
"It allows him to have more freedom with eating," she said.
"He's only four, you can't stop a child wanting a bowl full of pasta, at a party you can't stop a child wanting party food, so the pump allows a lot more freedom.
"It also allows us to have better control overnight; if you're up every hour overnight then maybe you've got a good indication [of blood sugar levels] but no parent wants to be up every hour, I can guarantee that."
After five years of clinical trials by specialists at Perth's Princess Margaret Hospital and hospitals around Australia, the device is now commercially available at a cost of $10,000.
Professor Jones said as the technology developed the pump will become cheaper and more accessible.
The hospital's researchers said this was the first step in their efforts to create a fully automatic device that can constantly monitor blood sugar and adjust insulin levels accordingly, reducing the need for patients to conduct finger pricks to self-assess their glucose levels.
This story was originally published on ABC and has been republished with full permission.