Diabetes inventions

By | 24 November, 2009

I recently did an interview for a diabetes magazine (yes, another magazine – we’re getting really big now in diabetes celebrity circles; such as they are). And I was asked what single development would make life easier for me as a member of the pancreatically-challenged hoard.

I did think about a new pancreas grown from stem cells, but I just don’t think science is advanced enough to come up with a proper cure for diabetes in my lifetime (or what I expect my lifetime to be – obviously even I don’t know how long I’m going to live). When you think about it, science has had 90-odd years since Banting & Best successfully stopped killing dogs and discovered insulin to come up with a complete cure. Although there have been leaps and bounds forward since then, science hasn’t even yet managed to come up with a long acting insulin that actually delivers consistently and smoothly for a full 24 hours (yes, we’re talking about you lantus). So I’m afraid that I think cures are still a long way off.

So I side-stepped the question by answering that incremental improvements to existing systems actually make life a lot easier for people with wonky pancreases. Take for example blood glucose meters. I’m a huge fan of Abbott’s FreeStyle Lite as it uses a tiny sample, is stupidly quick to process your result and is just generally well designed and thought out.

When you compare this to the medieval instruments of torture that were used not that long ago for measuring BG you can see that the world has moved on enormously and checking your BG is now ludicrously easy and relatively pain free. Given that a Good Diabetic will check their BG 4, 5 or 6 (or more) times a day such seemingly small changes to meters make a huge difference to the quality of our lives.

Similarly, faster acting insulins would be hugely beneficial. Humalog is pretty good stuff, but I still have to stick it in about 20 minutes before breakfast to avoid a massive post-port and pheasant peak (there’s nothing like a good, well-matured roast pheasant and a flagon of port for a good start to the day. The sort of breakfast empires were built upon, God be my witness!).

Anyway, so that’s what I’m hoping for the future – not a cure – but lots of little incremental improvements. Each one might not be wildly noticeable by itself, but cumulatively they’ll make a huge difference to our everyday, mundane, shuffling lives.

Category: The future Tags: , ,

About Tim

Diagnosed with Type One when he was 28, Tim founded Shoot Up in 2009. For the diabetes geeks, he wears a Medtronic 640G insulin pump filled with Humalog and uses Bayer’s Contour Next Link blood glucose meter.

20 thoughts on “Diabetes inventions

  1. Alison

    A cure is a long way off? Tim, you’re so cynical for one so young but I agree with you completely.

    Ever since I was a child I wanted to be able to look at my watch and see what my blood sugar was – when CGMS came along that was a monumental leap forward for me. Faster acting insulin would be good, and Smart Insulin sounds good where it sits in the body and only starts working when it senses your blood sugar is above a certain level. http://www.diabetesmine.com/2008/11/smart-insulin-it-knows-what-youve-been-eating.html/comment-page-1 Now that’s clever.

  2. Tim

    Alison :
    I agree with you completely.

    First time for everything!

    Smart Insulin sounds exciting – bet it won’t work though. I think pumps, CGMS and, critically, the two talking to each other are the way forward in the short term. That gets me excited (well, mildly excited – after all everything’s relative).

  3. Mark

    In recent history, what single development has made life easier? Arguably, two developments: the insulin pump and the cgms. However, Tim’s recommendations for a good whiskey come in a close third. πŸ˜€

  4. Lesley

    Its encouraging to see that even the white-coated-ones are thinking “increments” rather than “cure” now – as per the closed-loop project at Addenbrooke’s. They have big dreams for the future, but intend to get each new increment available to the pancreatically-challenged masses. They are now running clinical testing in patients’ own homes for a pump + CGMS + algorithm system for use overnight.

    My personal favourite at the mo would be non-invasive BG testing. Followed by a pump with AI that could interpret patterns and make suggestions for altering my bolus rates or insulin:carb ratios – rather than simply suggesting a correction bolus.

  5. Rachel

    @Lesley that one sounds fab too especially if they could get the CGMS working. They would have to get it as accurate as finger prick testing though. Again I will believe it when I see it.

  6. Lesley

    @Rachel I’m not so bothered about the CGMS. If it was non-invasive I’d use it far more frequently anyway. Maybe if I had had a measure of success with CGM I would be more into the idea…

  7. Tim

    @Lesley Of course we all know that the technology might make it available next year – but it’ll probably be three aeons before the NHS makes it available to us mere mortals.

  8. Terry Ozbourne

    Lesley :
    @Tim I think I’d take out a loan for one of those! (Not a mere mortal – a non-invasive BG meter…)

    Me too! Testing is almost worse than the spikey thingy bit…

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