We R the Cure

Seeking Cures and Cheating Destiny


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Chance Chat At Work Leads to Blog Revival: Quantum Cascade Laser Tests Blood Sugar Without Finger Pricks

Happy New Year to all my Type 1 diabetes friends and #DOC community. After a long, long blogging vacation … I’m back to writing again thanks to a chance chat with a colleague at work today.

Princeton Researchers Use Lasers to Measure Blood Sugars

Members of the research team test the new laser system. Images courtesy of Frank Wojciechowski/Princeton University.

It was a completely unscripted meeting. As I was in the men’s restroom testing my blood sugar at work, Jonathan walks in, sees me and my bright red blood spot on my test strip. Then he asks: how many times a day did I ” prick my finger” for a blood drop to test my glucose. My normal answer: 8 to 10 times a day. Then I stop myself wondering if we’ve got a connection?

After a few soundbites about testing, insulin pumps, CGMs and all the standard stuff from me — Jonathan pauses and says: “Before I came here I was working in a research group at Princeton that is working to use lasers to accurately measure blood sugar without needing a finger prick,” he said.

Dramatic pause. The sound you heard is my jaw dropping and hitting the bathroom counter. First time I’d ever heard this possibility. The possibility of fewer finger pricks for blood testing is a dream for all of us T1Ds. Wave a magic wand or light beam over your finger and the BG results sync up with my soon-to-be-real Artificial Pancreas closed-loop technology!  Wow, my mind is now racing and I’m back in the blogging game. Here’s the link to the full story. Read it and let me know if you’ve heard of this research?  Together, We R the Cure for Type 1 diabetes and its serious medical complications!!

A team from Princeton University has developed the new technique, which measures blood sugar by directing an IR quantum cascade laser at a person’s palm. The laser light is partially absorbed by sugar molecules in the patient’s body; the amount of absorption is used to measure the level of blood sugar.

According to the researchers, the results indicated that the laser measurement readings produced average errors that were somewhat larger than standard blood sugar monitors, but remained within the clinical requirement for accuracy. In measuring blood glucose levels, readings must be within 20 percent of the patient’s actual blood sugar level. The new system has demonstrated 84 percent accuracy.

“We are working hard to turn engineering solutions into useful tools for people to use in their daily lives,” said Claire Gmachl, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering and the project’s senior researcher. “With this work we hope to improve the lives of many diabetes sufferers who depend on frequent blood glucose monitoring.”

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The “Highs and Lows” Of Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Trials: Some Days You’re the Windshield; Some Days You’re The Bug

LauraRNMike2

Laura Kollar, right, Clinical Research Coordinator and Nurse Manager at UVA, spent her Saturday morning guiding the health screening for trial participants at Barringer Wing. Thanks Laura!

As I ponder the current ” Ups and Downs” of my participation in a new Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Trial at UVA, two quotes come to mind. One comes from a famous figure in American history; The other comes from my father, a UVA alum known for his wit and wisdom throughout the Anderson clan in Virginia.

“Do not put off till tomorrow what can be put off till day-after-tomorrow just as well.” — Mark Twain

“Growing old ain’t for Sissies.” — Howard Anderson

I think both are fitting words for the inconvenience, effort and the amazing satisfaction that comes from giving your own blood, sweat, and sometimes a few tears to help researchers move us all one step closer to finding a ” Cure ” or high tech solutions that will improve the quality of life for persons living with T1D.  Last month I joined a new clinical trial at UVA’s Center for Diabetes Technology — my sixth trial since August 2010 — titled “Biobehavioral Mechanisms of Glucose Variability.”

Trial participants will track their insulin sensitivity results over about one month and travel to Charlottesville for an in-patient stay at UVA Hospital to measure,  through continuous blood analysis, how a person responds or counters a high and a low blood sugar. A greater understanding of these issues will help researchers, doctors and digital technology leaders finish key parts of the Artificial Pancreas project — a closed-loop insulin pump technology designed to better control glucose levels in T1 diabetics and reduce the serious medical complications of diabetes.

BarringerWingUVA

On a Saturday morning in October, I waited outside Barringer Wing at the old UVA Hospital complex for my health screening to start. It is always a very emotional and cool feeling for me to be back at Barringer — I’m walking the halls where my mother and father were on the day of my birth back in 1961.

Participating in a clinical trial is a volunteer labor of love. No one forces you to sign up. ( Attention: We need more people to sign up for clinical trials all over the world!! ). You are able to step out of a trial at any point. The truth is: it’s amazing to participate in cutting-edge medical technology like the AP and I’m hoping to benefit from the results of the research — automated glucose management that leads to better long-term health and less complications.

In a snapshot, here are the highlights of the first 3 weeks of my study. The BIG EVENT happens this week — when I complete my 12-hour in-patient stay at UVA hospital with the CDT medical team.

  • Week 1: Go to Lab Corp and get pre-trial blood work done and results shipped to UVA; Travel to Cville for health screen with medical team; Attach trial DexCom 4 Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM); Go shopping at grocery store for pre-planned meals — breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack with exact carb, protein and fat grams — to be used for my 4 Insulin Sensitivity days; Do  “Twice” the number of normal finger sticks in order to record BG data in my trial meter and my own insulin pump meter — Ouch!
  • Week 2: Eat 2 tasty pre-packaged meals and record the exact food nutrition information on the spreadsheet provided by Stacey Anderson, MD — who is no relation to the Anderson clan but a cool coincidence that we share the same last name; Discover that the DexCom CGM sensor applicator — does not always work and actually draws blood from my abdomen site; Keep doing the finger sticks — 9 to 10 times a day for two meters and for calibration of the CGM — Ouch!
  • Week 3:  Get day off from work approved; Discover that the ” hidden gem ” of the trial study is NOT going to happen yet — wearing the DexCom5 CGM prototype in addition to the DexCom 4 CGM; The DexCom 5 is being manufactured specifically to work directly with the Artificial Pancreas SmartPhone — delivering blood glucose results to the SmartPhone and not to the normal CGM receiver. This is one of the remaining “closed-loop” research items to be completed before the AP can become commercially available.

For now, that’s my story. Stay tuned for my next blog post and photos — from the in-patient glucose variability trial at UVA this coming week. Remember — We R the Cure. We R the ones who will make a brighter day for Type 1 diabetics.


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What Does It Feel Like To Test Your Blood Sugar 8 Times Every Day: My Day of Finger Pricks

A few years ago, a child under the age of 9 years presented this to a room full of adults at a JDRF fundraiser in Richmond, VA. Her concise and beautiful talk captivated the room. It says a lot about the daily grind of a child, a parent caring for a child, or an adult living with Type 1 diabetes. More than 3 million Americans face this daily Type 1 D drama in order to stay alive.

Finger Pricks

Try this. What does it feel like to test your blood sugar or take an insulin shot — 8 times a day.

As 2012 ends and 2013 begins, it’s time to energize We R the Cure. Here’s my starting point.

I encourage you to try this simple yet realistic “day in the life” of a person living with diabetes. To feel what it’s like to test your blood sugar like me, put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it each time you see my handprint or needle. Eight times or more a day.

  1. I woke up low at 2 AM. Mom had to check me. Finger Stick.
  2. Check before breakfast and my first shot.
  3. Gym today. The nurse checks me before I can participate.
  4. Mom or I check before lunchtime. Finger Stick. Shot.
  5. Soccer practice after school. Finger Stick.
  6. Suppertime. Finger Stick. Shot.
  7. Before Bedtime. Finger Stick. Snack or Shot.
  8. Bedtime. Finger Stick. Snack or Shot. I am OK.


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A Parent’s View: The Sugar Highs And Lows During A 20-year Diabetes Journey

Lauri and her son, Drew, at JMU in Harrisonburg, VA

Lauri, right, and her son, Drew, celebrate his sophomore year at James Madison University.

By Lauri Savage

My son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 15 months.  His onset was sudden, severe and life-threatening.  Although living with diabetes is challenging, nothing compares to the fear of almost losing a loved one.  Our 20-year family journey with diabetes provides me, a parent, with a unique perspective and I hope to share this with you.

When my son was a baby, I vividly recall people saying, “How can you give a baby shots?” 

I guarantee any parent could give their child a shot if it was a means of keeping them alive.  With Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is not producing insulin, so injections through syringes or an insulin pump are needed to live.

As my son went through his childhood, we found the right balance of vigilance and living life.  Here is what I mean by this:  it is critical for people with diabetes to keep their blood glucose levels in the right range.  Either a very low blood glucose level or a very high blood glucose levels can result in a medical emergency.   With a low blood sugar, giving the person sugar through glucose tables or another quick acting source restores the person to normalcy over time.  With a high blood sugar, additional insulin is needed.  In the extreme case, without proper medical management, either a very low or high blood sugar could have a serious outcome.

As the parent of a child with diabetes, you must strike a balance between monitoring every morsel your child consumes and allowing high sugar or high carbohydrate foods to be consumed.  No longer is it true that sweets and treats can’t be enjoyed, but moderation is key.  Physical activity is beneficial for all of us, and is good for a child with diabetes too.  But this also involves testing blood glucose before, during and after sports and keeping levels in the right range.

Before you know it, the teen-age years have arrived.  By this point, my son had gained great independence in managing his diabetes, testing his own blood glucose level and administering insulin with supervision.  Along the way, he was spending nights away from home with friends.  This required making sure that the parents had a general understanding of diabetes and how to respond if an emergency arose.  Often my husband or I would have to drop by during a sleep over just to monitor our son’s diabetes.

Fast forward to my son getting his driver’s license and the prospect of teen parties and imagine more potential worries.  Luckily, my son has always been responsible and takes good care of his diabetes.  That doesn’t mean that we did not have a few medical emergencies over the 20 years of his living with this disease.  It is just impossible to be always be prepared, but fortunately things always worked out

Of course, all of this pales in comparison to the day when you bring your almost 18 year-old to college. I’ll cover this in my next post on We R the Cure.