The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced that in a new multicentre clinical trial a device known as iLet bionic pancreas was found to help type 1 diabetes patients better maintain their blood glucose (sugar) levels compared to standard insulin delivery methods.

The experimental bionic pancreas device was provided by Beta Bionics.

In the clinical trial, the device was found to be more effective at keeping blood glucose levels in the normal range.

Also known as an artificial pancreas or closed-loop control system, the bionic pancreas tracks a person’s blood glucose levels using a continuous glucose monitor and, when required, delivers the insulin hormone automatically using an insulin pump.

These devices replace the testing to monitor glucose levels needed for other methods of insulin delivery.

They also need less user input and provide more automation compared to other available artificial pancreas technologies.

The algorithm of the device regularly adjusts the insulin doses automatically, reacting to the users’ needs.

In the 13-week trial, 326 participants aged six to 79 years with type 1 diabetes, who had been using insulin for at least one year, were enrolled. It was conducted at 16 clinical sites in the US.

In the study, the participants were randomly assigned to either the bionic pancreas device treatment group or a standard-of-care control group, who continued using their personal insulin delivery method from before the start of the study.

Glycated haemoglobin in participants using the bionic pancreas improved from 7.9% to 7.3%, while the levels remained unchanged among the standard-of-care control group.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the NIH, primarily funded the trial, which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine .

Harvard Medical School medicine associate professor and study chair Dr Steven Russell said: “Our observation that this system can safely improve glucose control to the degree we found, and do so despite requiring much less input from users and their healthcare providers, has important implications for children and adults living with diabetes.”