The newest diabetes technology advances aim to make management a seamless part of patients’ lives. In the next five years, experts say artificial pancreas devices that work on a closed-loop delivery system and require minimal patient maintenance will be smaller and smarter. Also in the pipeline, are advances in glucose-responsive “smart insulins” that can turn on or off based on patients’ needs, and stem-cells treatments that can be transplanted into patients with little risk of rejection, says Laurence Alberts, CEO of Cam Med, a medical technology device company.
Here’s more on how new technologies and technology partnerships could change the landscape of diabetes care.
- New applications for wearable technology
Healthcare technology companies are partnering with well-known wearable companies to identify diabetes monitoring and management opportunities.
At press time, Dexcom, a technology company that develops continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices, is awaiting FDA approval for a CGM device that works directly with the Apple Watch independently (without the use of an iPhone). Fitbit already has partnerships with Dexcom and Medtronic CGM devices that involve integrating blood sugar data with some of its devices. Fitbit’s recent $6 million investment in, Sano, a startup aiming at creating a coin-sized CGM patch, shows more interest in the technology.
OneDrop, a diabetes management digital platform that includes blood data transmitted by Bluetooth, also partnered with Fitbit in late 2017 to integrate fitness and diabetes data into the activity tracker. Jeffrey Dachis, founder and CEO of OneDrop, says the company’s partnerships with companies including Fitbit, Apple, and Dexcom will provide patients with “actionable insights” that lead to better outcomes. “Doctors and clinicians don’t have the time or the resources to spend digging through users' data or helping them engage in the psychosocial issues that happen outside the doctor’s office,” says Dachis. “OneDrop makes sense of the wearable’s data and fills those gaps.”
2. Removable implant for type 1 diabetics
Researchers at Cornell University have created a removable implant to control insulin for type 1 diabetics. The six-foot thread mimics thousands of islet cells in the patient. It is implanted in the peritoneal cavity (in the abdomen) through a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure. The thread is easy to remove once it no longer works in the body.
Duo An, a doctoral student in the department of biological and environmental engineering and colead author of the paper introducing the technology, says the team is working toward clinical trials. The device could help make diabetes management easier for patients because their blood glucose level will be self-regulated for months or even years, says An.
3. Flexible insulin-release patch
Makers of a bandage-like insulin delivery system hope that the technology can help children and adult users with type 1 diabetes become more comfortable with treatment. The Evopump by Cam Med, is an automated insulin delivery patch about the size of a business card that is flexible and has multiple reservoirs for insulin delivery. The device can be worn by patients for about a week, with insulin filled by users and administered in premeasured doses through a thin tube inserted into the body through the patch. The Evopump, which the company is calling a “patch-like-pump,” is still in the development stage, and Alberts says a prototype could be available to test by the end of 2018.
He hopes the patch will provide an alternative to artificial pancreas devices currently on the market, which are often large and cumbersome, especially for children and patients with mobility issues. “Many patients would be better off with a pump automatically delivering small doses of medication, especially when part of a closed-loop system, yet available pumps are still too clunky, visible, complicated and costly so most patients don’t use them,” says Alberts.
The patch will be cheaper and remove economic barriers that have stalled pump adoption, he says, noting the cost of pump supplies alone can add up to thousands of dollars each year. “For all the technical advances of the artificial pancreas to be realized, these on-body systems need to get smaller, more discreet, out-of-the-way, simpler and less expensive,” says Alberts.
Donna Marbury is a writer in Columbus, Ohio.