Four-Year-Old Boy Receives World’s First Artificial Pancreas

A four-year-old boy in Australia became the first person to receive an “artificial pancreas.” The device is a blessing for people around the world who suffer from diabetes and fear a potentially fatal hypoglycaemic attack.

Xavier Hames has had type 1 diabetes since he was 22-months-old. The toddler and his mother had to carefully watch blood sugar levels and manage the disease through insulin injections. But now he’s a trailblazer for diabetes sufferers around the world as the first person to receive an “artificial pancreas.”

Yahoo! News reports the device looks like an MP3 player. Although it’s external, it connects to his body through several tubes underneath the toddler’s skin.

Western Australia’s health department issued a statement about how the artificial pancreas works.

“The technology mimics the biological function of the pancreas to predict low glucose levels and stop insulin delivery. This in turn avoids the serious consequences of low glucose such as coma, seizure and potential death.”

Insulin pumps have existed for years, but what makes this one special is its software.

Doctor Tim Jones explained to WA Today, “[T]he difference with this pump, is that its got a hypoglycaemia predictive algorithm within it, a small computer inside of it, that will give people a lot more confidence.”

This means that Xavier doesn’t have to fear a hypoglycaemia (low-blood sugar) attack, which often happens during sleep and can be fatal. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) explained that the artificial pancreas can predict an attack 30 minutes in advance, and adjust insulin levels as needed.

“Having the pump gives us the reassurance that Xavier is safe when we are all asleep at night, and during the day. It is also waterproof meaning that he can enjoy water sports and activities as much as his friends and family,” Xavier’s mother, Naomi Hames, explained.

Although the JDRF developed the artificial pancreas, it will soon be used by adults as well.

The Guardian reports that New South Wales resident Jane Reid will be the first adult to be fitted for the device, which might soon come to the United States.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released approval guidelines for the artificial pancreas in November of 2012, including testing for the device’s software and user interface and requirements for clinical studies

The artificial pancreas will cost roughly $8,100, and was developed through five years of clinical trials at the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children and other Australian hospitals.

[Image via Western Australia Health Department/AFP]