As common as diabetes is these days, the condition is not easy to manage. However, a 22-year-old Dutch software engineer, suffering from diabetes, has perhaps made living with the medical condition a lot easier.
The engineer, Liam Zebedee, hacked into his own insulin pump and converted it into an "artificial pancreas."
Zebedee detailed the entire process on his blog. Here's how he did it.
What does it mean to have diabetes?
When you have diabetes, your pancreas are secreting little to no insulin, a hormone that helps break down and store sugar and fat from the food you eat.
This leads to higher blood glucose levels in people who suffer from diabetes.
A diabetic person is required to take insulin, which can be done using insulin vials and syringes, insulin pens or insulin pumps.
The engineer wanted to automate insulin delivery process
A varying number of factors influence your body's insulin requirement. These include the carbohydrate content in the food you eat, stress, the amount and quality of sleep, alcohol intake, exercise, etc.
Hence, Zebedee's plan was to automate the process of recording blood glucose levels, determining required insulin accordingly, and delivering it through the insulin pump, which continuously delivers short-acting insulin throughout the day.
How did he build the 'artificial pancreas'?
To enact his plan, Zebedee used a FreeStyle Libre CGM for continuous glucose monitoring, a Miaomiao transmitter to send readings to his phone, the open-source software Nightscout for T1-diabetes data-hosting and visualization, a 4,400mAh Lithium-Ion battery, an Intel Edison and Explorer HAT.
Once assembled, this contraption was operated using 'OpenAPS,' which downloads/uploads data on Nightscout and predicts insulin delivery on the pump via radio.
The entire thing cost under $1,000
It took Zebedee 20 hours to set up the "artificial pancreas" at a cost of $979 (approx Rs. 70,000) which excludes monthly costs of $225 for the Libre glucose sensor which lasts 14 days. Additionally, he used the Medtronic Insulin Pump that he already had.
Zebedee decided to build device after suffering with doctors
Notably, Zebedee decided to take charge of his own health after struggling with medical professionals who "prefer to prescribe rather than analyze."
With diabetes, he said, you're not always in control of whether things go the right way, but you're the one responsible to deal with your body.
He said feeling powerless against the disease made him angry and upset with himself.
'It's a lot better than what was happening before'
Zebedee wrote in the blog, "An OpenAPS Loop is not a catch-all solution. You still need to remember to give yourself insulin for food. And this won't help you with alcohol, probably. But it's a hell of a lot better, an order of magnitude better, than what was happening before."
He added, "I really felt like I was back in control. And that, that was empowering."