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Pump to control blood-sugar levels

Scientists have developed a new insulin pump for diabetics that automatically stops the flow of insulin to the body if blood-sugar levels fall too low.

The pump is designed to copy the human pancreas and prevent hypoglycaemic attacks, which can cause comas and can be fatal.

Currently 5,000 people in the UK use insulin pumps, but they are subject to strict criteria before they are deemed eligible.

Now people with type 1 diabetes in the UK and Ireland will be the first in the world to use this new Paradigm Veo technology by manufacturer Medtronic, which combines an insulin pump with continuous blood-sugar monitoring.

The device reads the amount of glucose in the blood with a simple blood test. The pump can then be programmed to deliver the right amount of insulin and input a "threshold" below which a patient's blood-sugar levels must not fall.

If the glucose level does drop below this marker, the pump automatically suspends insulin delivery for up to two hours to prevent any attacks.

Peter Hammond, a consultant diabetologist at Harrogate District Hospital, said: "Having this safety feature takes us a step closer to an artificial pancreas, and allows patients to get greater control over their blood glucose levels."

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Medtronic