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Apple Has a Secret Team Working On Non-Invasive Diabetes Sensors (cnbc.com) 94

schwit1 quotes a report from CNBC: Apple has hired a small team of biomedical engineers to work at a nondescript office in Palo Alto, miles from corporate headquarters. They are part of a super secret initiative, initially envisioned by the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, to develop sensors that can non-invasively and continuously monitor blood sugar levels to better treat diabetes, according to three people familiar with the matter. Such a breakthrough would be a "holy grail" for life sciences. Many life sciences companies have tried and failed, as it's highly challenging to track glucose levels accurately without piercing the skin. The initiative is far enough along that Apple has been conducting feasibility trials at clinical sites across the Bay Area and has hired consultants to help it figure out the regulatory pathways, the people said.

schwit1 adds: "From a business aspect, the most interesting part of this venture might be how Apple combines its penchant for secrecy with maneuvering through those regulatory pathways. It's one thing to introduce another new bit of consumer electronics kit. It's an entirely other thing to get a medical device past the FDA."

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Apple Has a Secret Team Working On Non-Invasive Diabetes Sensors

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    One would either have to have a pump installed, which pierces the skin, or give themselves injections. In actuality, this does nothing for type 1 patients. Holy Grail, I think not.

    • No kidding.

      We already have CGMs that are getting less and less invasive already.

      My son is 7, diagnosed T1D about a year and a half ago.

      How about we work towards a cure instead of blowing money on problems that have already been solved?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You have to separate Type 2 diabetes (which is insulin resistance, and 20 times more common) and Type 1 diabetes (which is usually an auto-immune problem that destroys all insulin producing cells). The "cure" for most Type 2 diabetes is weight loss, exercise, and diet. Many cases require medication: many of those are fat Americans. I don't blame them for winding up that way: insulin resistance is the basic problem, so early onset Type 2 diabetics wind up with very high insulin levels, which causes hunger, a

        • by havana9 ( 101033 )
          Diabetes could not be esily be separated in type 1 and type 2, there are also less than common types, like LADA, that is a type 1 diabetes that starts in adults and the destruction of beta cells is slower than type 1 in child, or type various MODY types. Some research has found that people with type 1 and type 2 have common [nih.gov] genetic components. Classic Type 2 diabetes could be controlled with weight control, exercise, and diet, and of course other types of diabetes are better controlled with the same method
      • by willy_me ( 212994 ) on Friday April 14, 2017 @01:22AM (#54232779)
        If what they say is true, this monitor would be in the form of a watch (or something similar) and be able to monitor blood sugar levels automatically. The user would then be alerted in the event they need to take action. Alerts would be provided immediately and not depend on an individual having to test themselves. Solves the problem of people forgetting to take their insulin. This differs from current CGMs and could legitimately be called an advancement - if it ever works.
        • If what they say is true, this monitor would be in the form of a watch (or something similar) and be able to monitor blood sugar levels automatically. The user would then be alerted in the event they need to take action.

          You just described a current generation CGM. Most of them even have bluetooth that can connect to a smart phone or smart watch.

          As I stated, this problem has already been solved!

          • The problem with current-generation CGM is that they require expensive consumables that a lot of insurance doesn't cover.

            If they could get a sensor working without penetrating the skin, without requiring supplies that get used up, that would be a massive boon, even if the sensor cost a few grand.

            • My point was that instead of throwing billions at making new hardware, why not put it into research towards a cure?

              Frankly, we all know why. Money.

              A company with the resources that Apple has could make an actual fucking impact on peoples lives, instead of setting themselves up to pad their pockets on peoples misfortunes.

              • Or you could get real and realize that people ARE spending billions of dollars on cures for both type I and type II DM. Just not Apple. Why doesn't Boeing do that? Or Hilton Hotels?

                Apple is really just one moderately large company in an enormous economy. They don't have to solve everybody's problems.

                Are there some issues about priorities in this world? Sure. Lots of them. But don't single out Apple or even the entire electronics industry.

                • Or you could get real and realize that people ARE spending billions of dollars on cures for both type I and type II DM

                  90% of the people could be cured (or prevented from getting sick in the first place) using a better (low carb) diet, for a fraction of the cost. Of course, the problem is that you can't make billions in profit telling people to adopt a sensible diet.

                  I agree that Apple has nothing to do with this, though.

                  • We're talking about two completely different things. Type 2 diabetes, usually attributed to diet and, frankly, an often self-inflicted condition, is not what devices like this are designed for. Constant testing of glucose and dispensing of insulin is something needed by a Type 1 diabetic whose body does not create insulin and is far more difficult to manage. Most Type 2 diabetics can be treated by taking a pill a couple of times a day.

                    Type 1 is a genetic disease and manifests itself completely independent o

          • If what they say is true, this monitor would be in the form of a watch (or something similar) and be able to monitor blood sugar levels automatically. The user would then be alerted in the event they need to take action.

            You just described a current generation CGM. Most of them even have bluetooth that can connect to a smart phone or smart watch.

            As I stated, this problem has already been solved!

            But aren't there serious limitations on range of measurement and ( IIRC) temperature issues?

            So, I don't think this is as "solved" as you think.

          • I wouldn't call the problem solved. My experience is that good monitoring is both problematic and essential. The effective use of test strips and glucometers requires discipline, something that children and teens are lacking, not to mention quite a few adults. As the balance of responsibility for monitoring shifts from parent to child, it becomes more of a challenge. Bluetooth monitors (e.g., dexcom) are minimally invasive, but you can't just take them on and off, which means they can limit one's activit

      • i read of a study earlier this week that links diabetes to insecticides. specifically glyphosophonates or whatever Round Up and similar chemicals are made of. go buy some better food with no insecticides or other crap and see if it makes a difference

        • i read of a study earlier this week that links diabetes to insecticides

          Absolutely ZERO chance my diabetes has anything to do with insecticides.

          More a matter of my pancreas sitting in a jar of formaldehyde on the surgeon's desk....

      • How about we work towards a cure instead of blowing money on problems that have already been solved?

        Apple has zero experience working in a wet lab. So, Apple puts money where it does have experience.
        Further, Curing biological diseases is hard. When Microsoft offered to debug cancer, Derek Lowe had this quote [sciencemag.org]:

        Unfortunately the world of code and computational hardware, as important, useful, and lucrative as it is, is just a sandbox compared to the real physical universe, of which living creatures are just a t

      • Start a low carb diet for both of you, less than 50g a day should be enough, if not go lower. There is no essential nutrition to be found only in grains. If you do so, you will not need any medication to control blood sugar, and you and your son will be much healthier.
        • You're a fucking idiot. My son has an auto-immune disease, not because he eat too many carbs.

          Please learn the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. He's in perfect health, and always has been. Can't control when your body decides to kill off it's own insulin producing cells.

          • You're not very bright are you? If you have very little sugar in your system you have very little need for insulin, so you don't have to suffer the wildly fluctuating sugar levels. In your case it is a cure. In your child's case it is effective symptom management.
            • Clearly you didn't read my post.

              I am not a diabetic, and in pretty decent shape. Can I stand some more gym time, absolutely. But nearly everyone can.

              I actually grow my own produce, we eat quite well. Very little carbs. Today I'm actually roto tilling in some compost in preparation of growing season.

              Reducing carb intake for my son will not help anything.

              Fuck off and quit making assumptions about people.

    • Even if this monitored blood sugar and delivered insulin via SMS and fairy farts, it wouldn't bee the holy grail.
      The holy grail would be fewer people with diabetes.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        The holy grail would be for people to stop eating so much damn sugar.

        • The holy grail would be for people to stop eating so much damn sugar.

          And people would be beautiful if they weren't so dam' ugly. Sorry, but some of us are just born this way.

          • Sorry, but some of us are just born this way.

            Yes, some, but let's not forget the millions of others who can easily prevent it by quitting the damn sugars.

            • Haven't seen any Type 2 diabetics that needed devices like this. They can usually take a pill a couple of times a day to solve their problem. This type of solution is for the genetic Type 1 diabetic whose body does not generate insulin, not for the person that ate a box of chocolates every day until their body couldn't properly process sugar and insulin. Please don't hate just because you are misinformed on the subject.

            • by west ( 39918 )

              > Yes, some, but let's not forget the millions of others who can easily prevent it by quitting the damn sugars.

              Easily? I don't think that word means what you think it does. Almost by definition, if it was easy, they'd already be doing it.

              Or by easy, did you mean "restructure society and re-engineer human dopamine reward systems" type of easy? :-)

    • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Friday April 14, 2017 @12:13AM (#54232623)

      Well at least it would mean not having to burn through lancets and strips. If a monitor that did not consume test scripts cost 300 dollars and lasted at least six months, it would have paid for itself in test strips alone.

      For at least some type IIs controlling with medication, having continuous monitoring may help them when they over medicate and give them some heads up when their sugar is crashing.

      Of course, healthy skepticism about Apple actually pulling it off, but it's far from the worst thing Apple could do.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Well at least it would mean not having to burn through lancets and strips. If a monitor that did not consume test scripts cost 300 dollars and lasted at least six months, it would have paid for itself in test strips alone.

        For at least some type IIs controlling with medication, having continuous monitoring may help them when they over medicate and give them some heads up when their sugar is crashing.

        Of course, healthy skepticism about Apple actually pulling it off, but it's far from the worst thing Apple could do.

        Ironically, the benefits you outlined here is the real problem Apple will face if it figures out a solution.

        In other words, reserve the healthy skepticism for getting a product approved that will disrupt a multi-billion dollar industry.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        You are buying the wrong strips.
        I'm paying $20 for 100 strips by looking online. and I usually get about 100 free lancets when I get them. I use the contour next usb, the data is 100% hackable so I simply plug it into the "charger" weekly and it downloads all the data into my linux server.

        I have friends that are paying more than $2.00 a strip and I ask why the hell. they always claim "mine is more accurate" yet when I test my blood with their meter and then my meter I am within 5 points which can be the

        • This industry is also part of the problem. Because no one will establish an open standard for test strips and glucometers and no one will publish their communications protocols for communicating with the insulin pumps, folks like my wife are stuck having to buy the test strips that will work with the glucometer that is the only one available that can communicate with her pump. I, for one, am glad to see a company like Apple that embraces market disruption jumping into the mix. Even if they don't manage to f

      • Well at least it would mean not having to burn through lancets and strips. If a monitor that did not consume test scripts cost 300 dollars and lasted at least six months, it would have paid for itself in test strips alone.

        For at least some type IIs controlling with medication, having continuous monitoring may help them when they over medicate and give them some heads up when their sugar is crashing.

        Of course, healthy skepticism about Apple actually pulling it off, but it's far from the worst thing Apple could do.

        Apple has a pretty fat war-chest, and may have some internal "motivation" (just guessing).

        But several groups have already come fairly close to the goal; so Apple only has to refine already-existing work, which they can likely make happen.

        • by west ( 39918 )

          Well, if there is anything Apple is good at, it's taking a bunch of "almost there" technologies, and turning them into something that hits the mark.

          Here's hoping they manage to do it again.

          • Well, if there is anything Apple is good at, it's taking a bunch of "almost there" technologies, and turning them into something that hits the mark.

            Here's hoping they manage to do it again.

            Agreed. As a Type II Diabetic, I REALLY have been waiting for a WORKING, non-invasive Glucose sensor. Building that into something like an Apple Watch is PERFECT, if they can make it work. Even if it's only accurate and repeatable to within 20 points or so, it would still be very useful.

    • One would either have to have a pump installed, which pierces the skin, or give themselves injections. In actuality, this does nothing for type 1 patients. Holy Grail, I think not.

      Maybe not a Holy Grail. I try to control my blood sugar with pills rather than injections. Knowing what it is at any given moment would help me make better choices in food. Plus warm me if I mess up and actually do need an injection (and how well the injection is working).

    • Remote monitoring of conditions like diabetes, hypertension, congestive heart failure, etc. are a great use for smartphones. We'll see more of it to allow rapid intervention when something gets out of line.
  • did anyone else read the title and think of a Wilford Brimley cat saying "Diabeetus"? [youtube.com]

  • by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Friday April 14, 2017 @12:02AM (#54232601)

    It's one thing to have Apple Watch or FitBit misread your heart rate as happens with tattoos. It's quite another to misread blood sugar and let someone go into shock or worse.

    Most people with diabetes that I know are concerned with the inaccuracy of the home kits which works with blood. What do you think happens if they have to sign a EULA giving indemnity to Apple? They won't buy it, and honestly neither would I.

    Honestly, we need to see if the tech actually goes anywhere. Then we'll have to wait for the first bad incident due to the tech. My guess? It'll be like an Apple watch. A few people will use it, and not the ones who rely on it.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      It's one thing to have Apple Watch or FitBit misread your heart rate as happens with tattoos. It's quite another to misread blood sugar and let someone go into shock or worse.

      Most people with diabetes that I know are concerned with the inaccuracy of the home kits which works with blood. What do you think happens if they have to sign a EULA giving indemnity to Apple? They won't buy it, and honestly neither would I.

      Honestly, we need to see if the tech actually goes anywhere. Then we'll have to wait for the fi

  • not Apple's strength (Score:5, Informative)

    by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Friday April 14, 2017 @12:38AM (#54232671)

    If this is real, Apple is very much behind the times when it comes to both sensor technology and understanding of the medical device market. Trying a spectroscopic approach (which appears to be the case) is way out of date, that's a generation behind even the FDA cleared tests, and isn't going to compete with the new generation of sensors being developed now.

    There are several [mdpi.com] approaches [diabeteswellbeing.com] to continuous monitoring of glucose, going back more than 10 years. [nsf.gov]

    Many of these technologies, particularly the non-invasive ones, are more available outside the US than inside. This has more to do with the way medical device manufacturers are paid than any technical limitation. Bluntly, being in the glucose monitoring business is a great way to lose a lot of money quickly. Yes, the market is big, but it's brutal. Apple's strength is not dominating low margin, highly regulated markets.

  • by Sooner Boomer ( 96864 ) <sooner@boomr.gmail@com> on Friday April 14, 2017 @01:35AM (#54232829) Journal

    I'm tired of poking a needle in my finger twice a day to make me bleed so I can check my blood sugar. Then there's the cost/bother of the strips and machine (strips have a short shelf life, machines eat batteries).

    • strips have a short shelf life

      nope... got another year left on the strips I bought last summer (big job lot, got a nice discount)...

      machines eat batteries

      Nope, have only had to change the CR2032 battery annually in the four years I've been using my meter... I use at least six strips a day as well

      I use the SD Codefree meter... simple and cheap to run as well.

  • by xaxiomaticx ( 1731084 ) on Friday April 14, 2017 @02:14AM (#54232899)
    Turns out this is a really really hard engineering problem to solve and it has been tried so many times before. There's a guy who even mqaintains a book on the subject. http://www.mendosa.com/The%20Pursuit%20of%20Noninvsive%20Glucose,%20Fourth%20Edition.pdf [mendosa.com] I wish them luck. It's a great challange and it will benefit a lot of people if they manage to pull it off.
  • Secret team? Not if we're posting about it.

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