A prototype artificial pancreas for patients with type 1 diabetes is about to undergo its first major clinical trial. The device could put an end to regular glucose testing and insulin injections, and could prevent life-threatening irregularities in blood glucose levels, say its creators.

“Better control of glucose would mean less hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia,” says Roman Hovorka of City University, London, who has been involved in developing the device. “That is the really fundamental benefit, more than convenience.”

In type 1 diabetes, insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are killed by the body’s own immune system. Scientists know very little about what triggers that attack.