NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — A major advance has been made for people with diabetes. It’s an artificial pancreas to help diabetics regulate their blood sugar.

As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained, a Connecticut teenager is one of the first in the country to get the device.

The key to preventing consequences of diabetes, like kidney damage, amputations, and blindness is to keep blood sugar within a pretty narrow range.

That takes a lot of work; constantly checking your sugar, and taking just the right amount of insulin — exactly what the artificial pancreas does.

Claire Bickel suffers from type 1 diabetes, and said keeping her blood sugar in check is a constant struggle.

“Especially when I’m juggling field hockey, the spring musical, track, biology, checking my blood sugar,” she said.

Now, the active 14-year-old said the small external device is going to simplify her life dramatically.

She’s one of the first patients in the country and the first pediatric patient to receive the so-called artificial pancreas since it was FDA approved last year.

The system from Medtronic automatically measures her blood sugar and delivers precise amounts of insulin 24 hours a day with far less interaction from Claire.

“You still have to do some basic things like testing your blood sugar, dosing what you are eating. This is going to operate and do a lot of the important safety work in between meals, during exercise and at night,” Dr. Stuart Alan Weinzimer explained.

Those are the times Claire’s mother would worry about her blood sugar dropping the most. The artificial pancreas reduces that worry level.

“Oh, it brings it down. I slept all night last night,” Claire’s mother Francesca said.

She’s now looking forward to a future with less stress.

“I think going away places, going to college, a lot of those things I want to do by myself. It’s just a lot easier to do,” she said.

It’s given both her and her mother peace of mind, and another reason to smile.

There are other so-called artificial pancreas in the pipeline. They all use a continuous glucose monitor that talks to an insulin pump with less input from the wearer.

1.25-million Americans are currently living with type 1 diabetes.


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