For all the convenience and indispensability of having access to the sum total of human knowledge in the palm of your hand, the actual process of acquiring and configuring a smartphone can be an incredibly frustrating experience. Standing in those endless queues at the cell phone store, jumping through the administrative hoops, and staring in sticker shock at device that’s going to end its life dunked in a toilet, contribute to the frustration.
But for my money, the real trouble starts once you get past all that stuff and start trying to set up the new phone just right. Sure, most phone manufacturers make it fairly easy to clone your old phone onto the new one, but there are always hiccups. And for something that gets as tightly integrated into the workflows of your daily life as cell phones do, that can be a real bummer. Especially when you find out that your shiny new phone can’t do something you absolutely depend on.
Continue reading “The New-Phone Blues: A Reminder That Hackers Shouldn’t Settle” →
If you or someone you know is diabetic, it is a good bet that a glucose meter is a regular fixture in your life. They are cheap and plentiful, but they are actually reasonably high tech — well, at least parts of them are.
The meters themselves don’t seem like much, but that’s misleading. A battery, a few parts, a display, and enough of a controller to do things like remember readings appears to cover it all. You wouldn’t be surprised, of course, that you can get the whole affair “on a chip.” But it turns out, the real magic is in the test strip and getting a good reading from a strip requires more metrology than you would think. A common meter requires a precise current measurement down to 10nA. The reading has to be adjusted for temperature, too. The device is surprisingly complex for something that looks like a near-disposable piece of consumer gear.
Of course, there are announcements all the time about new technology that won’t require a needle stick. So far, none of those have really caught on for one reason or another, but that, of course, could change. GlucoWatch G2, for example, was a watch that could read blood glucose, but — apparently — was unable to cope with perspiration.
Even the meters that continuously monitor still work in more or less the same way as the cheap meters. As Hackaday’s Dan Maloney detailed a few years back, continuous glucose monitors leave a tiny sensor under your skin and measure fluid in your body, not necessarily blood. But the way the sensor works is usually the same.
For the purposes of this article, I’m only going to talk about the traditional meter: you insert a test strip, prick your finger, and let the test strip soak up a little bit of blood.
Continue reading “Tech In Plain Sight: Glucose Meters” →
When you’ve got a diabetic in your life, there are few moments in any day that are free from thoughts about insulin. Insulin is literally the first coherent thought I have every morning, when I check my daughter’s blood glucose level while she’s still asleep, and the last thought as I turn out the lights, making sure she has enough in her insulin pump to get through the night. And in between, with the constant need to calculate dosing, adjust levels, add corrections for an unexpected snack, or just looking in the fridge and counting up the number of backup vials we have on hand, insulin is a frequent if often unwanted intruder on my thoughts.
And now, as my daughter gets older and seeks like any teenager to become more independent, new thoughts about insulin have started to crop up. Insulin is expensive, and while we have excellent insurance, that can always change in a heartbeat. But even if it does, the insulin must flow — she has no choice in the matter. And so I thought it would be instructional to take a look at how insulin is made on a commercial scale, in the context of a growing movement of biohackers who are looking to build a more distributed system of insulin production. Their goal is to make insulin affordable, and with a vested interest, I want to know if they’ve got any chance of making that goal a reality.
Continue reading “Open-Source Insulin: Biohackers Aiming For Distributed Production” →
Does anyone actually enjoy the sensation of being squeezed by a blood pressure cuff? Well, as Mom used to say, it takes all kinds. For those who find the feeling nearly faint-inducing, take heart: researchers at UC San Diego have created a non-invasive medical wearable with a suite of sensors that can measure blood pressure and monitor multiple biochemicals at the same time.
The device is a small, flexible patch that adheres to the skin. So how does it manage to measure blood pressure without causing discomfort? The blood pressure sensor consists of eight customized piezoelectric transducers that bounce ultrasonic waves off the near and far walls of the artery. Then the sensor calculates the time of flight of the resulting echoes to gauge arterial dilation and contraction, which amounts to a blood pressure reading.
This patch also has a chemical sensor that uses a drug called pilocarpine to induce the skin to sweat, and then measures the levels of lactate, caffeine, and alcohol found within. To monitor glucose levels, a mild current stimulates the release of interstitial fluid — the stuff surrounding our cells that’s rife with glucose, salt, fatty acids, and a few minerals. This is how continuous glucose monitoring for diabetes patients works today. You can check out the team’s research paper for more details on the patch and its sensors.
In the future, the engineers are hoping to add even more sensors and develop a wireless version that doesn’t require external power. Either way, it looks much more comfortable and convenient than current methods.
If you ask power companies and cell phone carriers how much electromagnetic radiation affects the human body, they’ll tell you it doesn’t at any normal levels. If you ask [Calvin Carter] and some other researchers at the University of Iowa, they will tell you that it might treat diabetes. In a recent paper in Cell Metabolism, they’ve reported that exposing patients to static magnetic and electric fields led to improved insulin sensitivity in diabetic mice.
Some of the medical jargon in a paper like this one can be hard to follow, but it seems they feed mice on a bad diet — like that which many of us may eat — and exposed them to magnetic and electrical fields much higher than that of the Earth’s normal fields. After 30 days there was a 33% improvement in fasting blood glucose levels and even more for some mice with a specific cause of diabetes.
Continue reading “Electronic Treatment For Diabetes?” →
So much of what we do relies on a certain societal structure that has been absent for a few months now. When the days run together, it’s hard to remember to do the things that must happen daily. You think you did something, and maybe you’re right, but it’s quite possible you’re thinking of yesterday.
[Flameeyes] has diabetes and must use an insulin pen every morning without fail, no matter what’s happening outside his door. This was pretty much a non-issue in the before-time, but quickly became a serious problem as the routine-free weeks wore on. With no room for false positives, he needed a solution that doesn’t trigger until the deed is done.
Now when [Flameeyes] puts the pen away, he also triggers a Flic smart button mounted nearby. The Flic shares its status with a Feather M4 Express through a web app, and the Feather in turn changes the RGB LED inside of Pikachu’s base from red to yellow for the day. Pikachu sits in plain sight by the kettle, so there’s no guessing whether [Flameeyes] took his insulin.
Insulin is a critical commodity with a lot of DIY interest, which is probably starting to spike about now. Our own [Dan Maloney] wrote a great piece on the subject that brings up an insulin hack from around 80 years ago.
Join us on Wednesday, October 16 at noon Pacific for the Hacking Diabetes Hack Chat with Dana Lewis!
When your child is newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes (T1D), everyone is quick to point out, “It’s a great time to be a diabetic.” To some degree, that’s true; thanks to genetically engineered insulin, more frequent or even continuous glucose monitoring (CGM), and insulin infusion pumps, diabetics can now avoid many of the truly terrifying complications of a life lived with chronically elevated blood glucose, like heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and amputations.
Despite these advances, managing T1D can be an overwhelming task. Every bite of food, every minute of exercise, and every metabolic challenge has to be factored into the calculations for how much insulin to take. Diabetics learn to “think like a pancreas,” but it’s never good enough, and the long-promised day of a true artificial pancreas always seems to remain five years in the future.
Dana Lewis is one diabetic who decided not to wait. After realizing that she could get data from her CGM, she built a system to allow friends and family to monitor her blood glucose readings remotely. With the addition of a Raspberry Pi and some predictive algorithms, she later built an open-source artificial pancreas, which she uses every day. And now she’s helping others take control of their diabetes and build their own devices through OpenAPS.org.
Join us on the Hack Chat as Dana drops by to discuss OpenAPS and her artificial pancreas. We’ll find out what her background is – spoiler alert: she wasn’t a hacker when she started this – what challenges she faced, the state of the OpenAPS project, and where she sees the artificial pancreas going.
Our Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, October 16 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.
Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.
[Dana Lewis image source: GeekWire]
Continue reading “Hacking Diabetes Hack Chat” →