Parents of children with Type 1 diabetes face the extraordinary challenge of monitoring their child’s blood glucose levels day and night. A national clinical trial has demonstrated that an artificial pancreas system, first developed at the University of Virginia, does a better job of keeping glucose levels in range than a standard monitor and pump system.

The hormone insulin — produced by the pancreas — regulates blood glucose by transporting it out of the blood and into the cells to burn for energy. Type 1 diabetes affects the pancreas, so it doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t produce the hormone at all. Previously called “juvenile diabetes,” the onset of Type 1 diabetes typically occurs in childhood. This chronic condition requires lifelong, continuous insulin therapy.

The artificial pancreas, now sold as the Control-IQ system by Tandem Diabetes, combines a blood glucose monitor and insulin pump in one device. The system also uses advanced algorithms to automatically adjust the amount of insulin delivered by the pump in response to changes in blood glucose levels throughout the day and night.

The randomized clinical trial studied 101 children between the ages of 6-13 across four institutions: the University of Virginia, Stanford University, Yale University, and the University of Colorado. The results, recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that during the day, the average time the artificial pancreas kept glucose in the target range was 7% higher than the average for an ordinary monitor and pump setup.

More significantly, the average time in range during the night was 26% higher than the established system. This increase could have life-saving benefits, as severe drops in glucose (hypoglycemia) can have dangerous and even fatal consequences.

Previous studies had shown that the artificial pancreas could successfully keep adults and adolescents in range. Due to the national study, the FDA has approved the Control IQ system for children ages 6 to 13. That means the system can help ease some of the burden of care for parents of younger children.