February 10, 2015

Smart Insulin

The smarties over at MIT have come up with a phenomenal idea - engineer a "smart" form of insulin that floats in the blood stream and turns itself on when blood sugar levels rise.

This new insulin has only been tested in mice so far, but it has been shown to stay in the blood stream for 10 hours. When blood glucose levels become elevated, this glucose-responsive insulin becomes activated.

Using a smart insulin like this would decrease the need for testing blood sugars (yay!) and decrease the number of injections required for those who don't use an insulin pump.

I'm not sure if or how a smart insulin like this would work with an insulin pump, but I'd love to try it. This sounds promising!

Source: MIT News

Image Courtesy: antpkr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

February 4, 2015

Child Receives Advanced Insulin Pump, Not Artificial Pancreas

The human pancreas is shown in orange.
Have humans really created an artificial one
or are we getting ahead of ourselves?
I frequently wonder...where is the artificial pancreas already, and when can I get my hands on one?

The short answer is that Australian researchers recently announced a commercially available artificial pancreas! The long answer is that we're still a long way away. Confused?

A four year old Australian child has been fitted with an artificial pancreas to manage his type 1 diabetes, which has plagued him since he was just 22 months old (poor baby!).

The Aussies say it auto-regulates insulin output based on blood sugar levels to prevent hypoglycemic events (low blood glucose). This sounds amazing and is certainly a step in the right direction, but an artificial pancreas? I think not.

This "artificial pancreas" is essentially described as a super insulin pump with continuous glucose monitoring capabilities plus a smart software algorithm that is programmed to anticipate insulin needs and to shut off insulin delivery prior to the blood sugar going low. That sounds incredible. This is much different than the insulin pumps already on the market, which deliver a steady stream of insulin at a specific rate continuously regardless of blood sugar levels, requiring the user to be extremely hands-on in managing the pump.

This is absolutely a break-through in medical technology. It's sure to prevent dangerous hypoglycemia and make life with diabetes easier to manage, and I would love to try it. It does NOT, however, manage hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) without user input.

My opinion is that the term "artificial pancreas" is being used irresponsibly in an overly loose manner. It's far too powerful a term for a suped-up pump/CGM combo.

The news of this break-through new pump is being sensationalized by some news articles through the use of the term "artificial pancreas". It's eye-catching and eludes to a cure, so of course it's turning heads.

Other news articles are staying true to what the product is: a pancreas-like insulin pump. These different terms are both being applied to Australia's new invention, and while it's clear that "artificial pancreas" catches more headlines, I seriously disagree with its use. "Artificial pancreas" makes promises to diabetics that the actual pump can't deliver.

In my mind, an artificial pancreas would be defined as a device (whether internally implanted or worn externally) that monitors blood glucose levels, pumps insulin, and is smart enough to automatically manage ALL blood sugars real-time without user input. As a type 1 diabetic, if I had an artificial pancreas, I wouldn't want to think about it, ever, except for when refilling insulin or changing injection sites, if necessary.

If we're talking about a true artificial pancreas, it would also monitor and manage glucagon levels in the same manner, as the body's regulation of this hormone (created in the pancreas) is also defunct in diabetics. Science has yet to figure out a way to synthesize glucagon, so this point is moot for now.

I hope to try out one of these new suped-up insulin pump/CGM smart combos when it's available in the U.S. I just ask that the media and those in the science and medical communities please stop tossing around a strong term that suggests a cure when we are clearly far from it.

Image Courtesy: Dream Designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

January 23, 2015

Testing Glucose with a Temporary Tattoo

Very soon, us diabetics may be adorning ourselves with temporary tattoos developed by nanoengineers that look straight out of the year 3050. Not only do these tattoos look futuristic, they have a futuristic medical job to do.

Researcher Amay Bandodkar from University of California, San Diego, has invented a temporary tattoo containing electrodes designed to test glucose levels by sending mild electrical currents through the skin.

This Continuous Glucose Monitor is a daily disposable, extremely cheap (a few cents!), requires no lancets or finger pokes, and will have Bluetooth capabilities. Genius.

Initial clinical tests show that the tattoo's accuracy is on par with traditional finger-prick glucose testers. Although, it sounds as if there is a lot more work to be done before it gets close to coming to market.

This new medical technology will be a major game changer for all diabetics by making vital blood glucose monitoring easy, painless, cheap, and automatic. Since that is the exact opposite of glucose testing as we currently know it, I would absolutely use this product.

Source: The Atlantic
Photo Courtesy: UC San Diego

January 21, 2015

Hello 2015!

Talk about a hiatus! I stopped posting back in 2009 when I changed jobs and found myself in a situation where I rarely had a moment to myself. I followed that up with having two babies and a few more career changes, and here I am in 2015. Here's hoping I can get it going again!

July 8, 2009

Emergency Recall - Medtronic Minimed Quick-Set Infusion Sets "Lot 8"

Medtronic Minimed has issued an emergency recall of it's "Lot 8" Quick-Set Infusion Sets.

This evening I arrived home to find a UPS package from Medtronic Minimed. It contained information about a recall of all Quick-Set Infusion Sets with Lot numbers beginning with an 8 with the reference numbers MMT-396, MMT-397, MMT-398 and MMT-399. The package also contained a fresh box of replacements with instructions to stop using the Lot 8 sets and ship them back to Medtronic.

Medtronic estimates that 2% of Lot 8 (approx. 60,000 out of 3 million) are faulty and may cause over-delivery or under-delivery of insulin while the pump appears to be working properly. These errors are caused by faulty vents and can occur whether in a stable altitude or stable air pressure, or during a change in altitude or air pressure.

If you use Quick-Set Infusion Sets and haven't yet received a package with replacements and instructions, Medtronic's instructions are to use one of the following:
  • Silhouette infusion sets
  • Sof-set QR / Sof-set Ultimate QR infusion sets
  • Sure-T infusion sets
  • Polyfin infusion sets
  • Revert to the back-up injection plan established with your doctor
If you change to any of the above back-up methods, notify your doctor.

Medtronic anticipates all customers will receive the same package I received by this Friday, July 10. For more information, click here to visit this special web page regarding this product recall.

June 29, 2009

3 Reasons Why I Hate The OneTouch UltraLink Blood Tester

I recently started using the OneTouch UltraLink Blood Glucometer and I must say, I officially hate it.

As a diabetic who is literally in love with the Freestyle Lite (like, it's so awesome that I could marry it), I was devastated when my Endocrinologist handed me the OneTouch UltraLink saying that I needed to make the switch. The reason being that the OneTouch UltraLink actually communicates with my insulin pump, the Medtronic Minimed Paradigm.

OK, so it sounded cool. Plus this whole communication thing would probably help me be better controlled. I sadly kissed my Freestyle Lite goodbye and placed it into my supply cabinet (aka the tester cemetery).

After a few months of testing with the OneTouch UltraLink, I can honestly say it's the worst tester I've ever tried. It's as if they tossed it together without the input of actual diabetics during an all-nighter just to take advantage of a marketing opportunity with Medtronic. I mean, the communication technology is well-developed, but did you think that just because it communicates with a pump we would overlook the basics? And I must say, someone was sleeping on the job when Medtronic agreed to partner with such a shoddy tester (although I still love you, Medtronic).

The 3 reasons why I hate the OneTouch UltraLink are (and these are major deal-breakers for me):
  1. The screen's not backlit!?!?! You've GOT to be effing kidding me. Diabetics test 'round the clock including the wee hours of the morning. When I wake up at 3am, I have two options... Scenario A. Turn on the bedside light, wake up husband, test, fall back asleep after 15 minutes, listen to husband complain the next morning that he couldn't go back to sleep. Scenario B. Get out of bed, walk to the bathroom, close the door, turn on the light, test, walk back to bed, then lie fully awake for an hour thinking about how much I hate the OneTouch UltraLink. I usually opt for B. Keeps the husband happy and me from feeling guilty.
  2. Is that much blood really necessary? The answer is NO. Not when the Freestyle Lite and Freestyle Flash require just a fraction of that amount. Get with the program, OneTouch. We already have to poke ourselves and now your going to make us squeeze our fingers until they throb? Sadists.
  3. The size is ridiculous! Who wants to carry an enormous tester everywhere they go? Not me. And certainly no woman who values space in her purse or enjoys using clutches. And definitely no man who plans to carry his tester in a pocket. It brings back memories of dragging around a graphing calculator in high school.
OneTouch, you should really do some market testing to see how actual diabetics use a tester before putting it out on the market. Sure, you've got me as a customer, but you did it the wrong way. Here I am posting your flubs publicly and will certainly Tweet about it (follow me on Twitter, @sarahsavage8). Never underestimate the power of social media.

You need to take a lesson from the geniuses over at Freestyle. Based on what I've experienced with their products, they actual talk to diabetics about how they'll be used. Now, if only they would create a little beauty that will talk to my pump. Freestyle...you had me at hello and I'm ready to take this relationship to the next level.

Just one more note - the best thing about the Freestyle Lite and Freestyle Flash is the handy little light where the test strip inserts. It lets you accurately test in the dark, in bed, in a movie theatre, while camping, without disturbing a soul. YES! Now that's innovation.

March 30, 2009

Stress-Induced Diabetes Downers

The past few weeks, my blog has been silent. I've been having what I like to call Diabetes Downers. This is when I mentally go through a period of pretending that I don't have diabetes. And so, pushed my blog to the back of my mind.

Don't worry. I've been testing my blood sugar, pumping insulin and eating well. I'm still in good control and taking care of myself.

Getting my Diabetes Downers is usually caused by going through a stressful period of time when my brain is consumed by thoughts of work, finances and house work. At times, it feels that there are too many responsibilities and this is when I secretly wish that diabetes was not one of them.

During a Diabetes Downer, it's like the part of my brain that helps me manage my diabetes goes on auto-pilot. I keep doing everything I'm supposed to be doing, but I'm not really thinking about it.

I have no idea if other diabetics experience Diabetes Downers in the same way that I do. In the first years after I was diagnosed, moments like these made me depressed and angry. I still have bouts of this, but I've slowly learned to channel it into something else. Allowing depression and anger to take over always led me to a place where I was no longer healthy, mentally and physically.

As I've come to terms with having diabetes, this coping mechanism has morphed into something that ensures my health and safety. I'm thankful I'm able to handle my Diabetes Downers now. Acceptance has been difficult, and while it may never be 100% acceptance, I'm encouraged each time I come out of a Diabetes Downer. I've made it through this round, and will keep on keepin' on.

February 27, 2009

Sobe Wisdom Misses The Mark

The other day, my hubby and I were watching a movie. I opened up a Sobe Lean Green Tea (which I love) and set the cap on the seat next to me. He picked it up, read the inside of the cap and started laughing. I grabbed it and discovered these bits of wisdom printed in the lid:

We were laughing so hard at the irony of a diabetic getting this advice. The marketing geniuses over at Sobe that came up with this "wisdom" definitely don't have diabetes. That also goes for the executives who approved it to be printed on the caps of their sugar-free drinks.

Carb counting consumes my life, as it should all diabetics lives. When I say consume, I don't mean in a negative, overbearing way, but carb counting is necessary for survival.

I think this incident proves that the general public is not educated enough on diabetes. I'm sure Sobe's marketing team is good at what they do; Sobe is a very popular brand. But if they're going to market a sugar-free drink, they should realized that diabetics are going to drink it. And diabetics count carbs.

Soy's Link To Hypothyroidism: It Almost Happened To Me

The past few months have been a bit rough on me. You see, last October my doctor told me I wasn't getting enough protein. Naturally, being a vegetarian, I upped my soy intake to solve the problem.

My December diabetes lab tests showed I was developing Hypothyroidism. The results were still in the "normal" range, but borderline. My doctor suggested that we redo the tests in January to see if it would get any worse.

Two weeks went by and my husband randomly read a blurb in Men's Health magazine that soy may inhibit thyroid hormone and cause Hypothyroidism. I instantly cut out all soy from my diet, and my January lab tests came back normal!

I am completely shocked that my Endocrinologist was not aware of this soy/Hypothyroidism relationship. Diabetics have a higher incidence of developing thyroid disorders than non-diabetics so this is crucial knowledge for diabetic vegetarians. I would think all Endocrinologists would tell their patients, specifically their vegetarian patients, about the risk of eating too much soy.

This experience confirms my philosophy that doctors do not know it all. While I respect them and understand how vital they are to helping me maintain my health, I am truly my own best advocate. I believe all diabetics need to research their diseases and symptoms as much as possible, and stay actively involved in the health care decisions that many people just let doctors make for them.

Having family and friends who are aware of your diabetes and are looking out for you is also an important part of staying healthy too. If it weren't for my husband having his eyes open, I'd probably be starting a lifetime of thyroid medication right now.

February 18, 2009

Mission: Accomplished

Six weeks, in the grand scheme of things, is a relatively brief period of time. I thought the past six weeks of tackling the Special K 6-week Challenge would be excruciating, but they've surprisingly sped by.

I did it! Here's the stats.
  • Days on the diet: 42
  • Bowls of Special K: 84, give or take a few. (Cut me some slack. No one can resist pizza when everyone at work is eating it.)
  • Pounds lost in the 1st 3 weeks: 4
  • Pounds lost in the 2nd 3 weeks: 0
  • Blood sugar changes: My BGs are consistently landing near my targets and are much more stable!

This challenge was easy. Even more importantly, I've learned tremendously from this experience. What did I learn?
  • Small meals do wonders for my blood sugar. I'm going to stick to just 1 normal meal a day, with 4 mini meals.
  • Mini meals between 15-25 grams of carbs seem to work best.
  • My carb counting skills and my insulin dosages have been honed to near perfection. When your BGs are stable all day, you can get a better reading on how accurate you are with that normal meal for dinner.

Will I continue eating Special K every day? Probably not. But I do still like Special K. I plan to do my best with sticking to mini meals. The good thing is I know I can always count on that crunchy cereal if I fall off the wagon and need to start over, which will almost certainly happen.