A toddler from Perth in Australia has become the first person in the world to wear a device that serves as an artificial pancreas.
Four-year old Xavier Hames suffers from type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that destroys his ability to produce insulin that regulates blood glucose levels so he is always at risk of suffering from hypoglycemia, when low blood sugar levels can cause seizures, coma and even death. His body organs are also at risk of getting damaged once his glucose levels become too high.
Although there are other options to address the young boy's condition such as subjecting him to insulin injections everyday or inserting tubes under his skin that would connect to a small box that serves as an insulin pump, Xavier now wears a new device in a small pouch at his waist that was fitted to him at the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children on Wednesday.
The device, which was developed through extensive clinical trials in Australia over a period of five years, mimics the ability of the pancreas to predict low blood sugar levels and then stop the delivery of insulin.
The pump, which also comes with a small computer that runs a hypoglycemia predictive algorithm, can also prevent hypoglycemia attacks which often happen at night while the patient is asleep. Xavier's mom said that the pump gives her assurance that her son is safe even when the family is asleep and she is looking forward to no longer giving Xavier his daily injections.
Tim Jones, from the PMH, said that although insulin pumps have existed for some time now, the new insulin pump is different because of the hypoglycemia predictive algorithm. He explained that the device works by delivering insulin through a plastic tube, which along with a sensor, is inserted under the skin.
"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," Jones said.
The device is now commercially available at a cost of about $10,000. It can be used by both children and adults. Jane Reid, from New South Wales, is also set to be fitted with the pump later on Wednesday making her the first adult to be fitted with the device.