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GluMon: A Diabetic Monitor Incorperating Environmental Factors December 11, 2012

Posted by Drew Williams in Mobility.
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Diabetes is one of the most prevalent of chronic diseases, with over 25 million people in the United States alone living with some form of it [1].  The illness comes in several forms, however it consistently renders a person unable to make, or unable to process, proper amounts of insulin.  Although great efforts have been made to find a cure for this chronic illness, there is not yet a solid solution – leaving these millions to find ways of managing diabetes throughout their lives, and live with the disease.

The most common method of living with diabetes includes the use of a diabetic monitor, which uses a blood sample from the user in order to assess current blood sugar levels.  Levels that are too high are balanced with a shot of insulin, levels that are too low require the diabetic to eat a quick snack to boost their blood sugar.  Although strides have been made in developing monitors that do not require painful pricks to the finger in order to obtain blood samples [2], most current diabetic monitors still require pricking of the finger in order to acquire the aforementioned blood sample.  Using this method of assessment of the diabetic’s current condition, in addition to the dosing that needs to take place, can place stress on the diabetic – perhaps one of the reasons why adolescent diabetics are watched for depression [3].  Furthermore, external conditions, such as recent exercise and current trends, are not taken into account with finger prick monitors, or even most continuous glucose monitors.  Sudden drops or spikes can only be recognized by the diabetic feeling ill and taking another reading – there’s no method of assessing by either context or constant readings whether a diabetic is reaching a dangerous sugar level.

I propose the creation of a smarter, smaller, more efficient monitor; which I shall tentatively refer to as GluMon.  GluMon is diabetic dosing and monitoring system that works by taking advantage of current forays into minimally-invasive monitoring methods, and monitoring a diabetic’s current activity level, the current time, blood glucose reading, and any prominent trends.  The cornerstone of GluMon is a modified Glucowatch – a minimally-invasive monitor that works by using a “low electric current to pull glucose through the skin.” [4] With the Glucowatch, stripped of its visual display and now utilizing both an accelerometer for determining activity levels and a Bluetooth module, GluMon couples a modified dosing pen with a Bluetooth sensor installed, and an application installed in the user’s phone that can be paired with the GluMon Glucowatch.  As most people bring their phone with them everywhere, pairing a monitor with the processing power of a smart phone is a perfect fit.

Such a monitor will not only eliminate the need for constant pricking what with the noninvasive readings, but also allow a user to receive alerts (or have alerts sent to friends or family members) if levels trend toward or reach dangerous heights or lows.  Exercise and time of day will be considered with current levels, as exercise especially can have sudden effects on blood glucose levels [5], and it’s important to keep in mind that stable levels after a workout may not remain so stable.   Furthermore, with a small sensor active on the paired dosing pen that comes with GluMon, if the monitor reads a series of doses and/or trends that indicate the user may have forgotten a dose or overdosed, the monitor can (again) alert the user.  My hope is that such a device will help in preventing hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, and allow diabetics to live longer, happier lives while we continue to search for a cure for the disease.

In order to explain the general workings of the GluMon, we’ll go over a basic scenario of typical dosing procedure with the device.  When the GluMon is first purchased, it goes through a calibration phase – this may require a few readings with a traditional glucose monitor to ensure proper readings from the GluMon.  During this time the GluMon, which looks like a small, featureless band, is worn constantly on the wrist, where it begins to adjust to trends in the user’s activity level, dosing schedule and blood glucose levels.

When dosing happens, a small sensor on the dosing pen sends a message to the GluMon application that indicates the time, date, and amount of the dose.  This integrates with the information that the GluMon is picking up about the user’s blood glucose levels and activity level (time, calories burned, etc) for a comprehensive look at all the factors affecting the user’s blood glucose levels.  Activity level monitoring is done in the same manner as a FitBit [6] might do it – registering calories burned thanks to the accelerometer built into the modified GluMon.  However, calculations, processing and organization of this data is not completed on the machine itself: the data is sent to a mobile app where it is analyzed.  This solves the problem of the GluMon’s sometimes-delayed blood sugar monitoring levels: taking environmental effectors, determining trends, and bringing dosing information into account allows the GluMon to be as accurate as possible.  Notifications can be scheduled when blood sugar levels dip below or rise above a certain threshold: notifications are sent to the user in the case of a small change, drastic changes send text messages to family or friends as well.  A user can also force a sync in order to read their most current levels by pressing one of two buttons on the side of the GluMon – causing the reading to be sent to the user’s phone.

The modern take on monitoring described here should fit in well with the lives of users – other solutions for continuous monitoring exist, [7] but seem cumbersome for those with active lifestyles – Dexcom’s small pod adhered to the body seems to have a good risk of being jostled.  However, in time – with the development of bio-sensors based on fluorescence for monitoring glucose [8] – a user might be able to replace the watch band with a simple electronic tattoo, discretely placed and also interacting with their cellular phone.  If initial tests with the GluMon prove favorable, it might even be possible to integrate algorithms for dosing into the equation, and have accurate dosing measurements displayed for meals based on current conditions.

What this project overall seeks to do is improve the lives of users struggling to live with diabetes everywhere.  With time we will find a cure for diabetes, but until then developments such as the GluMon might help those with the disease live more normal lives – and allow them to manage the disease in an easier manner.

References

[1] “Diabetes Basics.” American Diabetes Association. American Diabetes Association, n.d. Web. 30 Nov 2012. <http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/?loc=GlobalNavDB&gt;.

[2] DeNoon, Daniel. “No-Prick Blood Sugar Tests Unveiled.” WebMD. WebMD, 25 2007. Web. 10 Dec 2012. <http://diabetes.webmd.com/news/20070625/no-prick-blood-sugar-tests-unveiled&gt;.

[3] Splete, Heidi. “Watch for Depression, Rebellion in Diabetic Teens.” Internal Medicine News. (2005): 32. Print. <http://www.internalmedicinenews.com

[4] Tierney, Michael J., et al. “The GlucoWatch® biographer: a frequent, automatic and noninvasive glucose monitor.” Annals of medicine 32.9 (2000): 632-641.

[5] LifeScan, Inc. “Avoiding Low Blood Glucose Levels During Exercise.” Understanding Diabetes. LifeScan. Web. 10 Dec 2012. <http://www.onetouch.com/articles/avoiding-low-blood-glucose-levels-during-exercise&gt;.

[6] “FitBit will help you get up and go..” FitBit.com. Fitbit., n.d. Web. 30 Nov 2012. <http://fitbit.com&gt;.

[7] “Dexcom G4 Platinum.” Dexcom. Dexcom, n.d. Web. 30 Nov 2012. http://www.dexcom.com/

[8] McShane, Michael J. “Potential for glucose monitoring with nanoengineered fluorescent biosensors.” Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics 4.4 (2002): 533-538.

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