Diabetes is one of the most deadly diseases in the world and is responsible for over a million deaths per year. Sadly, diabetes isn’t curable — yet.
However, scientists and doctors are always working on new technologies and therapies to help people who live with diabetes manage their condition a little bit better.
Every year, new technologies are proposed and adopted, and next year will not be any different. We’ll be exploring some of the emerging technologies that diabetic patients can reasonably expect to use in managing their condition over the next few years.
It’s been a long time coming, but it seems like the smartphone revolution is about to catch up with healthcare technology.
We’ve had apps for everything from mundane games to finding our bracelets, and now PWDs can expect to be able to use their phones to control their medical devices via diabetes management apps on their smartphone.
This will be of unimaginable help to people who constantly have to tend to their insulin pumps outside their homes to bolus. Now, they only need to press a few icons on their smartphone, and their insulin pump would be dosed remotely.
This particular functionality has been hinted at for a long time by tech companies. However, for some reason, the app has never made it to the list of commercial FDA-approved diabetes devices. But that’s about to change.
Tandem Diabetes, the company behind this change, has run pivotal tests on their t:slim X2™ insulin pump with Control-IQ™, and the tests have been largely successful. The pump can receive smartphone signals, and then use those signals to release insulin into the body.
According to John Sheridan, CEO of Tandem Diabetes, once PWDs can bolus remotely from a mobile app, they have absolutely no reason to tend to their insulin pumps. The technology is still in the test phase, but many users already report better sleep quality and reduced diabetes burden.
So when can PWDs expect to start using this device? Sadly, that’s not information we are privy to. However, we know that it’s close. For one, the company had already filed its expanded mobile app functionality with the FDA by the end of 2020, so it’s probably closer than ever at this point.
The FDA had already approved the tech in 2019 — the only difference is, the regulatory body is yet to approve the updated app that comes with pump control.
More On Insulin Pumps
Tandem Diabetes isn’t the only company making big moves when it comes to insulin pumps.
The Medtronic 780G, for example, is one pump to be reasonably excited about. The new tech is likely to expand on the foundations set by the Medtronic 670G and Medtronic 770G, which are its first two iterations.
The 770G already offers built-in Bluetooth for remote updating of the technology in the future, which is a pretty big deal if you don’t like the hassle of updating your pumps or changing them. However, the 780G is a lot more advanced than that.
For example, it works excellently with Medtronic’s next-generation Zeus CGM sensor, which requires just one calibration on the first day of wear and no further fingersticks beyond that. The pump also offers different insulin duration times, unlike other commercial closed-loop systems available.
The pump can adjust for missed meal doses, and deliver automatic correction bolus delivery every 5 minutes to help keep users in an optimal range. Interestingly, Medtronic plans on asking the FDA for approval of its new pump for adults and children from the very start.
Another Insulin pump to look out for is the Omnipod 5 insulet. The new insulet will come with glucose targets that are adjustable by the time of day, a smart bolus calculator, and HypoProtect — which is a feature that protects the wearer from an overdose of insulin.
CGM Just Got Better With The Dexcom G7 CGM
The new Dexcom G7 is expected to change a lot of things when it comes to Dexcom CGMs. For one, the new G7 CGM is expected to have a combined sensor and transmitter design.
According to a recent update from an earnings call in October, Dexcom planned on rolling out the G7 this year, however precious little has been said about the tech since then. It’s likely that it’s still under FDA consideration, and will only be hitting the market in the first quarter of 2022.
Pending the approval of the CGM, the company has released some of the features the G7 is expected to have.
Unlike all the earlier versions of the Dexcom CGM, the G7 will be fully disposable. There won’t be a separate transmitter with 3-month battery life — instead, the sensor and the transmitter will come as an integrated unit, and once the sensor’s run is done, the full unit will be disposed of.
The wear time is set to be longer too, despite the G7 still having the 10-day wear limit like the G6. The only difference is that the G7 is expected to support wear for about 14 to 15 days extra. However, the biggest change by far (and the one that PWDs will probably be most excited about) is the decision support functionality that the CGM will be coming with.
Dexcom has been mulling over the idea of integrating software features like dosing assistance and information and prompts that help PWD make smarter decisions when it comes to dosage based on their CGM reading. The attempt to integrate Dexcom’s CGMs with that functionality got a huge boost in 2018 when the company bought TypeZero Technologies in 2018. With this purchase, it appears that Dexcom is trying its hands out at integrating these features, and we just might see it with the G7.
That’s not all. In recent updates, Kevin Sayer, the CEO of Dexcom, has said that the company plans on eventually releasing different versions of the G7 for different categories of users. That means there might be more complex G7s for insulin using PWDs and another less complex one for non-insulin using PWDs.
Abbott FreeStyle Libre 3
When it comes to healthcare tech, we generally want them to be as small as possible. No one wants to haul around a 1 feet long sensor, and no one wants it to become an instant topic for conversation because of its obstructive size.
That’s why we are always happy to see diabetes tech get even smaller, and that’s why we are excited for the Abbott FreeStyle Libre 3. The libre is essentially the world’s smallest and thinnest glucose sensor and is just about the size of two pennies stacked together.
So it’s small enough to carry around and big enough to not get lost easily. It’s in that sweet spot in terms of size, and it’s really difficult to see any glucose sensor getting smaller.
Despite being quite a lot smaller than the Libre 2, the Libre 3 still has roughly the same functionality. And on top of that, it has full-CGM functionality as it no longer requires any sensor or scanning to provide real-time glucose reading. Instead, it constantly generates real-time glucose readings. That is, every minute there’s a glucose reading available for you to base treatment judgments off of.
This is a huge improvement from Libre 2 that still requires you to initiate a confirmation scan to get a reading.
Noninvasive Glucose Monitoring
CGMs are great and are an amazing alternative to finger sticks. However, a lot of them still require a tiny needle under your skin. That still proves to be very uncomfortable to many people.
Of course, the ultimate goal is to create a CGM device that can constantly monitor blood sugar but doesn’t have to go under your skin — both literally and figuratively.
There are a lot of projects trying to do this, but the closest of them all has to be sugarBEAT CGM. The sugarBEAT CGM monitors blood sugar, not through tiny needles under the skin, but a sticky patch placed on the skin. The product was launched in 2019, however, it hasn’t yet been approved by the FDA.
Another promising prospect is AerBetic. AerBetic isn’t a sticky patch, instead, it measures blood sugar through chemical changes in breath gasses — which seems a little bit science fiction-y. In a few years, we’ll know just how realistic this tech is, because it is already in the testing phase and the success of those tests would tell us whether it’s a tech we should be looking forward to seeing.
It’s beyond certain that these emerging technologies (some of them are already here in fact) will make the lives of PWDs easier. One can only hope that the tech that helps PWD live fuller lives continues to get better, and better, and better.