October 30, 2013
Holy Diabetes, Batman!
I wish that Batman was a type 1 diabetic. Not because I want to see my favorite superhero shooting up with insulin on a regular basis, but because I know that if Batman has a problem, Lucas Fox will solve it. Fox, Bruce Wayne’s #2 at Wayne Enterprises, tailors his inventions for Batman’s needs.
Do you remember his instant update on Batman’s suit after the dog attack in The Dark Knight? He seems to sense what Batman needs before Batman knows himself. And, not only are his designs functional, they are incredibly stylish. Hello Batmobile. I firmly believe that Fox could cure Type 1 diabetes if Batman required it.
Despite the lack of Fox’s genius, the management of diabetes has come a long way over the years. Insulin, first discovered in 1921, dramatically altered the life expectancy of type 1 diabetics by providing a treatment option for patients. Prior to the development of insulin, it was nearly impossible for a diabetic to maintain proper blood glucose levels.
Insulin, a hormone produced by beta cells in the pancreas, is responsible for regulating glucose levels in the body. In diabetes, the beta cells are nonexistent or not functioning properly. Therefore, synthetic insulin is required to prevent drastic blood sugar highs and lows.
In order to know how much insulin is necessary, diabetics must test their blood sugar throughout the day. They do this by pricking their finger and sampling their blood. The blood sample is placed in a glucose meter that quickly reads the blood sugar level. Ideally, a diabetic tests before and after each meal, in addition to various intervals throughout the day.
My little brother has been a type 1 diabetic for the past seven years. If he tests his blood sugar seven times per day, (average days range from 5-10 finger pricks) that means he has pricked his finger almost 20,000 times since he was diagnosed. This is not including days that there were more than seven finger pricks, or days when his fingers simply would not bleed and he had to repeatedly stab himself with the needle.
I did this quick calculation to illustrate the impact that blood sugar testing has on a diabetic’s life. Yes, insulin and blood glucose monitors are amazing, but being a diabetic is still challenging. Insulin is not a cure. Until there is a cure, better technology needs to be developed to ease the burden of living with diabetes.
My brother’s fingers are calloused. The skin on the tips of his fingers is thickened from repeated finger pricks. Imagine if he no longer had to prick his finger? That would impact his life significantly. From my experience, testing is a chore that is often dreaded. Imagine if instead of using needles, my brother could use lasers to test his blood sugar?
Using a technique known as photoacoustic spectroscopy, or (PAS), researchers have possible developed a method that prevents the use of needles in blood sugar testing. PAS uses a laser light that is administered topically. The light then travels through the skin and is absorbed by glucose molecules in the bloodstream. Following absorption, a blood sugar reading is produced.
This technology is still in the experimental phase. Researchers have mentioned that temperature, humidity, and air pressure can currently affect readings. However, further development of this technology could truly be life changing for those living with diabetes.
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