Treating diabetes: There’s an app for that; How software can make diabetics’ lives safer and simpler

Treating diabetes: There’s an app for that; How software can make diabetics’ lives safer and simpler

Jun 21st 2014 | New York | From the print edition

IF DIABETICS are to keep their blood-sugar levels in a healthy range, they must rely not only on periodic visits to the doctor, but also on careful daily management of their medicine, meals and exercise. For years, this regime included regular self-administered blood-sugar tests and similarly self-administered insulin injections. Now, in the better-off parts of the world at least, these things can be automated. There are gadgets that monitor sugar levels, and implanted pumps that deliver insulin. But Ed Damiano of Boston University and Steven Russell of Massachusetts General Hospital think things could be improved further by using software to make these devices work together as what would, in effect, be an artificial pancreas.

As they outlined on June 15th to a meeting of the American Diabetes Association held in San Francisco, Dr Damiano and Dr Russell have created an app, housed in an iPhone, which receives data every five minutes from a glucose monitor implanted in a patient’s body. The app analyses these data, plus the patient’s weight (a good proxy for his blood volume), and draws appropriate conclusions. The phone then transmits the app’s instructions to two implanted pumps. One of them delivers insulin, to lower blood sugar. The other delivers glucagon, which helps raise it.

The findings of a trial of this system, on a group of adults and teenagers with Type 1 diabetes, were published in the New England Journal of Medicine to coincide with the talk. They look promising, particularly in adults. The combination of detector, algorithm and pumps reduced the amount of time patients spent with low blood sugar by two-thirds compared with their usual care.

The new system is bulky, so a streamlined version is being developed. And though all the hardware is standard, the app itself counts as a medical device, meaning the Food and Drug Administration must give it its blessing. If it passes muster, then the lives of those diabetics who can afford it will be made better.



About bambooinnovator
KB Kee is the Managing Editor of the Moat Report Asia (, a research service focused exclusively on highlighting undervalued wide-moat businesses in Asia; subscribers from North America, Europe, the Oceania and Asia include professional value investors with over $20 billion in asset under management in equities, some of the world’s biggest secretive global hedge fund giants, and savvy private individual investors who are lifelong learners in the art of value investing. KB has been rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as an analyst in Asian capital markets. He was head of research and fund manager at a Singapore-based value investment firm. As a member of the investment committee, he helped the firm’s Asia-focused equity funds significantly outperform the benchmark index. He was previously the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. KB has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy, value investing, macroeconomic and industry trends, and detecting accounting frauds in Singapore, HK and China. KB was a faculty (accounting) at SMU teaching accounting courses. KB is currently the Chief Investment Officer at an ASX-listed investment holdings company since September 2015, helping to manage the listed Asian equities investments in the Hidden Champions Fund. Disclaimer: This article is for discussion purposes only and does not constitute an offer, recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell any investments, securities, futures or options. All articles in the website reflect the personal opinions of the writer.

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