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Patients with type-1 diabetes will no longer have to constantly check glucose levels. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Wednesday the approval of a first-of-kind device from Medtronic that automatically monitors glucose levels and administers or withholds the proper insulin dose.

The so called “artificial pancreas” measures glucose levels every five minutes through a sensor and utilizes a drug pump and tube to deliver insulin. Patients will still have to increase insulin manually before eating meals.

About 5 percent of the 29 million Americans with diabetes, has type 1 diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and it’s a condition where the pancreas does not make insulin. Patients currently have to continuously monitor glucose levels and manage their insulin with a drug pump or through injections.

“The FDA is dedicated to making technologies available that can help improve the quality of life for those with chronic diseases – especially those that require day-to-day maintenance and ongoing attention,” Jeffery Shuren, M.D., J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health said in a press statement. “This first-of-its-kind technology can provide people with type 1 diabetes greater freedom to live their lives without having to consistently and manually monitor baseline glucose levels and administer insulin.”

The MiniMed 670G is approved for type 1 diabetes patients 14 years and older, but the company is currently undergoing clinical studies to test safety and effectiveness in diabetic children between the ages of 7 and 13.  

Contributing Editor/Science Writer