*The author of this blog is not a medical professional and this article does not contain professional medical advice. This blog is not intended to substitute for medical advice, treatment, or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of the contents of this article. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.
Diabetes is frustrating, but tracking blood-sugar levels throughout the day is the definitely most tedious part. We can’t just decide not to do it, because of the possibly fatal consequences. Thankfully, scientists have been working to create technologies that allow less intrusive and more accurate methods of diabetic testing.
Continuous glucose monitoring systems (CGM) have a feel of something out of an 80’s sci-fi movie. They work by having an electrode imbedded beneath the skin that measures your blood sugar levels in the tissue fluid. This testing is done at regular intervals, and transmits the data wirelessly to a monitor to tell you where your levels are. This is a largely self-regulating system, but current technology does require periodic calibration using fingersticks.
Thanks to the accessible technology of smart phones, companies like mySugr are creating apps that can be used to input and track your data in real time. The goal of this app is to take the guess work out of managing your diabetes, and freeing you up to enjoy life. They even have an app for kids that turns managing diabetes into a competitive game.
CGM devices are a great way to begin, but being just monitors, they still require that a person with diabetes actively monitor their insulin. The goal of the artificial pancreas is to remove the need to manually balance insulin levels in the blood.
An artificial pancreas works with a CGM device to track levels, and when necessary, administer insulin to the patient’s body. The technology is still being developed and refined, but has been in use since 2016. Future diabetes testing and treatment is moving more toward this technology to reduce the incidents of hypoglycemia, and improve quality of life.
Glucose-responsive Ink patches
The University of California, San Diego is working on a unique monitoring system that relies on a less intrusive patch placed on the skin. This patch uses glucose-responsive ink that responds to near-infrared light and change color. The color change denotes the current blood sugar levels.
The San Diego team has had success in accurately tracking blood sugar levels using the patch, and is currently working on developing an accompanying monitor to give numeric readouts. Thanks to upgrades in communication technology the connection to the patch information may be able to be sent via Bluetooth, and monitored by a smart phone or tablet. The patch and monitor combination will remove additional equipment to carry around, and easier access to diabetes monitoring tools.
What if we could know how the foods we put into or body will affect our blood sugar levels? That is the goal of food scanners. The systems are in development, and work by scanning food and drink and providing the user with a breakdown of the ingredients and nutrients within the food they want to eat. Again, the data will be relayed to a smart phone, and ideally combined with CGM devices to allow a person to understand the potential impacts of what they will put into their body.
This is kind of an advanced monitoring system designed to prevent the need for artificial insulin. The technology is still being developed, but similar devices have been used that are working to identify gluten and other allergens. The addition of food scanners to diabetic testing can help create a lifestyle plan to drastically limit the negative side-effects of living with diabetes.