Helping Drive Technology Advancements

Medical Technology

Diabetes Patients Are Helping Drive Technology Advancements

Managing type 1 diabetes is an around-the-clock job. Patients must always be aware of what their blood sugar level is, whether it is trending up or down, whether or not to administer insulin, and if they do need insulin, how much. While there have been many advancements in technology to help with monitoring and insulin administration, the development and approval process is often long and drawn out. There are a limited number of devices approved by the government for use.

Patients with type 1 diabetes have begun taking their health into their own hands and improving treatment options. There are free directions online for how patients can connect their continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and their insulin pump with their smartphone to create a closed-loop system that tracks their blood glucose and automatically administers insulin as necessary. This type of artificial pancreas is something that researchers and pharmaceutical companies have been working on for years, but to date, there is only one commercially available closed-loop system available for use in Canada.

Jonathan Garfinkel, a Ph.D. candidate in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta, took his chances and used the patient-created instructions for setting up the closed-loop system two years ago, and it has been life-changing. Previously, he was having a lot of difficulty managing his blood sugar overnight, and it would drop dangerously low. With the closed-loop system, his blood sugar has become much stabler overnight, and he is not tasked with regularly doing finger pricks and figuring out insulin dosing on his own.

These advancements in technology that patients with diabetes are developing have prompted pharmaceutical companies to quicken their own pace when it comes to getting devices created and approved for commercial use. Patients are becoming increasingly more comfortable with technology and relying on smartphones, sensors, and other devices to help them stay abreast of their health.

Garfinkel himself is also working on a project to advance technology for diabetes treatment. He is in the process of developing “a more affordable glucose sensor that would sit on top of the skin, rather than being inserted subcutaneously.” It was a project he began in collaboration with Mojgan Daneshmand, an engineer and Canada Research Chair in Radio Frequency Microsystems for Communication and Sensing, who was unfortunately killed in a plane crash in January 2020. Garfinkel is continuing the work that they started together and was awarded a U of A seed grant to help.

There are so many young researchers with incredible potential who can benefit from funding that will allow them to carry out their plans and see the results. The Diabetes Research Connection provides up to $50K in funding to early-career scientists to empower them in moving forward with their novel research projects focused on type 1 diabetes. These opportunities open doors to improving the prevention, treatment, and management of type 1 diabetes, as well as improving quality of life, minimizing complications, and one day finding a cure. Learn more by visiting https://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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