back to article Marriage of AI, Google chips will save diabetics from a lot of pricks

AI may help people with diabetes monitor their blood sugar levels without puncturing their own skin, according to a research from the University of Waterloo. Most diabetics have to prick their fingers multiple times a day to draw a drop of blood to be dabbed onto a strip of test paper, before it is fed into a blood glucose …

  1. lglethal Silver badge


    I read the headline and thought Google was offering a service where Diabetics would not get subjected to any more advertising.

    Oh well I guess this is good too...

    1. HelpfulJohn

      Re: sigh...

      Strangely, my first thought on the "Google" aspect of this was not their friends in the advertising business, it was something vaguely like "... if you can radar glucose, then radarring other chemicals shouldn't be too difficult ... I wonder if the results could be mainlined to the cops and others 'for security and training purposes'"?

      Universal, continuous tracking and reporting of everyone's consumption of booze and other chemicals would be a Very Good Thing would it not?

      Just think of the CHILDREN it would save ..........

  2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Thank you.

    As a full Type 1 (insulin dependant) diabetic that has to make myself bleed 5 or more times a day, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart & the depths of my finger caloses. It's research like this, developments like these, & folks like you that will hopefully lead to me no longer living like a fekkin pin cushion. I & every other person on the planet that has to make themselves bleed like a leaky fawcet thank you.

    In that vein (snort) please allow me to ask that you hurry up & get this into our hands as fast as possible - the better that I might not die looking like a dehydrated strip of beef jerky. =-J

    1. GrumpyOldBloke

      Re: Thank you.

      While you are waiting on Google to add your blood chemistry to the list of things it shares about you, have you seen the current shoulder patch solution?

      Referring to an article from Feb-17 in an august medical journal:

      Edit: I see Noel Morgan's comment below also refers to this device.

  3. Tromos

    Why go for a wearable initially? The quicker something is made available, the better. Even if it's shoebox sized and heavy it will still be a blessed relief for many and a long-term money saver due to

    saving the ongoing cost of test strips and needles. Once out and established, then start thinking about fitting it in a watch. We'd probably still be waiting for it if the MRI scanner had to be pocket sized.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nope, Not for me!

    As a type 2 diabetic, I prick my fingers once or twice a week, and I would rather do that than use Google based AI.<p>


    The Goon Show: Britain's Natural Stupidity will outwit even the most retarded AI.

  5. RyokuMas Silver badge

    Wolf in sheeps clothing

    "... measures reflected signals bouncing off a user's hand to track its motion""

    Of course, all we're reading here is the altruistic side. And why not? After all, it would be brilliant if this could make things easier for those who have diabetes...

    ... if only it were is trustworthy hands.

  6. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    More vapourware?

    Several different approaches for non-invasive blood-sugar monitoring have been under development for some years. Various products have been plugged as being available real soon now. They involve clips in the ear, sensors on the thumb and the palm of the hand. None of them so far seem to be actually available.

    I'll believe this when I see it. Personally I don't care who makes it or how it actually works, just please get it onto the market soon.

    It would really dent Bayer Pharma's profits though...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Type 2 diabetics will benefit from such a device.

    Spot blood checks are somewhat unreliable indicators of how well you are managing your lifestyle. At 60p a shot they can be an expensive, and painful, way to achieve any regular daily testing.

    Only the six monthly Hba1c blood test can tell you if you are on a good/bad trend. There are home machines to do that test from a finger prick but are expensive - especially in GBP currency.

    Continuous glucose measurement at home is currently only possible by temporary probes inserted under the skin.

    A non-invasive continuous measure of blood glucose over a few hours would allow lifestyle variations to be evaluated quickly. In particular the GI value of any food is hard to predict with any accuracy - yet is an essential indicator for avoiding undesirable spikes in blood glucose.

    To monitor blood pressure before prescribing drugs - my doctor does not rely on a measurement in the surgery which might be subject to "white coat" syndrome. You get a not-so-small device strapped to your body for 24 hours - which inflates the cuff on your upper arm every 15 minutes. You just stop what you are doing for a minute when you hear/feel it starting the pump. Trying to sleep is a right pain - but overall it gives the doctor a better guide to the state of your cardiovascular system.

    A device like that for blood glucose would be a major step forward for a user to manage Type 2 Diabetes at home.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blood sugar level would be great for timing your food ads.

  9. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    SP02 meters currently shove red light through your finger tip to see how much oxygen you have in the blood stream. I've always wondered why it couldn't be tweaked to see sugar as well. It's just another 'thing' in your blood. Any thoughts?

  10. Noel Morgan

    Not quite the same - but available right now and it works

    my type 1 diabetic son has been using this for around 8 months at this point. available to children on the NHS in our area (at least)

    Gone from around 8-10 finger pricks per day to maybe 2-3 per week.

    And as someone else has said - much better than finger pricks which only give point in time information, this samples every minute.

    been a life changer.

    Also doesn't phone home all the time.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The web site is a bit light on technical details. Measuring interstitial fluids means that a probe has to be slid under the skin. On previous ones I have seen that was in the stomach skin - the Freestyle Libre goes on the upper arm.

      How easy is it to fit and remove?

      They seem to mandate a smart phone to read the measurements. I wonder if it can be done with a desktop and Bluetooth on a USB cable?

      At GBP60 per sensor for upto 14 days it is not cheap. The NHS won't give a prescription for spot check strips for most Type 2 patients - as NICE thinks it uneconomical. Many people wouldn't be able to afford this device.

      Nevertheless it seems like a welcome advance for many people. That the manufacturer is rationing supplies suggests it has met a market need.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "How easy is it to fit and remove?"

        To answer my own question - it looks remarkably easy to attach it. Getting it unstuck may take a bit longer.

    2. darklord

      except libre is not accepted as a reliable means of blood testing by the DVLA. and only checks the glucose in the substrate of the skin apparently.

      This is why its not available on the nhs everywhere. as its results vary between the libre reading and a usual blood glucose monitor.

      I know ive done them both.

  11. onefang Silver badge

    Something that has not been mentioned, which is another great reason why some sort of non invasive glucose measuring device would be a great idea for diabetics, is that diabetes attacks your immune system. This is what sometimes leads to leg amputations. Constantly poking holes in your fingers, that spend a large part of the day touching all sorts of things that may or maynot be covered in nasty bugs that your slowly depleting immune system may or maynot be able to handle today, isn't a good thing.

    Yes, I know, I sometimes rag on germaphobes in these forums, but other diabetics don't also happen to have a hyperactive immune system that is kept well exercised like mine. It's a careful balance, and most diabetics have the extra issue of pin cushion finger tips to worry about.

    Exhibit A, other peoples keyboards ->

    1. onefang Silver badge

      I guess I should add germophobes to the prudes and Windows fanbois I often get downvotes from.

      Even though science agrees with my method for keeping my immune system well exercised, alas the marketing budgets of soap companies is huge, and no one listens to scientists. So I get "ewwww" from most people, but don't get diseases from them. I'm allergic to eggs, so I can't have the flu vaccines, but never catch flu anyway, coz well exercised immune system. Infection never bothers me, despite walking around bare foot, over broken glass, and often never bothering to clean wounds, or even bandage them, coz well exercised hyperactive immune system + rapid healing.

      When I go for my blood tests, I have to remind them to not bother putting a bandaid on my arm, coz it'll heal before I get to the street corner. One day I donated some blood to my doctor in the arvo after the regular blood test that morning. The doctor picked the same vein, one centimetre from where the blood lab had hit me. I also told him not to bother with the bandaid, it would heal before I got to the corner. It healed before I left his surgery. I guess the healing bits of my body where still primed from the mornings blood sucking.

      I once got a three millimeter bit of glass embedded in the underside of my big toe. That part of the toe that carries all of your weight as you walk each step. I noticed it, but kept walking around for half an hour, until I got home. Then I fished it out, it left a big hole, no blood, no cleaning, no bandaid, no infection. When you walk around bare foot everywhere, you develop thick skin on the bottom of your feet and toes.

      I'm one very healthy and tough dirty old man, and I save money not spending it on the excessive amounts of soap most others buy. Also good for the environment, saves water, saves what ever carbon foot print manufacturing and transporting too much soap creates.

      I also don't shave, cut my hair, nor my finger and toe nails. All of which is just companies with hugely successful marketing having brainwashed most people in our society. I don't care what others think, they think wrong, I'm not abusing my body to cater to marketing and profit driven fashion. Science, it works bitches! Fashion, it sucks bitches!

      Downvote away germophobes, I'm all sorts of tough, I can take it. And just to trigger the prudes, I'm also a dirty old man in the other sense of the phrase. Windows fanbois can downvote me anyway, I'm sure to say something nasty about Windows again sooner or later.

  12. MachDiamond Silver badge

    As long as the tech isn't wrapped in Google spyware, it can be a good thing. If it's a porous IoT device that publishes your health information to a company that sells that data, bad.

  13. IceC0ld Bronze badge

    would be better if they could actually fit the device into a watch like item, and it could check on bloods on a timed routine, I have to check twice a day [T2] and have managed to pincushion one finger so bad that once. when I squeezed it, it damn nigh exploded with a mini tsunami of blood, it wasn't much in reality, but it seemed SO much more.

    But I would buy one in a heart beat, but as MachDiamond says - it HAS to be locked down, no outgoings and nothing that can be sold on yielded

  14. David Roberts Silver badge

    Most diabetics?

    Most diabetics are Type 2 and not on insulin. Most of those do not finger prick at all, but rely on the HbA1c test every 6 months or every year to measure how good or bad their control is. This is encouraged by the surgeries who are often very tight fisted when it comes to paying for test strips.

    Not saying this is a good thing, but the author might try doing at least a little superficial research to learn that not all diabetics are walking pin cushions, and that T1 and T2 are very different conditions,

    T1 is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the pancreas and destroys the cells which produce insulin. T2 is mainly centred around insulin resistance where the insulin produced by the pancreas is not used effectively and sometimes the pancreas gives up in disgust after being over worked for many years. I over simplify because it is much more complex than that and there are more than two types of diabetes.

    Having said all that, affordable non invasive blood glucose monitoring would be a boon to all diabetics and should greatly help in the control of diabetes (for those that can be bothered). I stress the "affordable" because it has the potential to be a cash cow that just keeps on giving, much like test strips today and the continuous glucose monitoring devices. There is a reason why you can get free test meters; much the same reason that printers are sold for less than the cost of the replacement ink cartridges.

    1. onefang Silver badge

      Re: Most diabetics?

      "This is encouraged by the surgeries who are often very tight fisted when it comes to paying for test strips."

      That very much depends on what the health system in your country is like. Here in Australia, we have Medicare that pays for a lot of things, like your doctor visits and HbA1c tests, National Diabetes Services Scheme that gives you a discount on things like test strips and lancets (probably syringes and insulin to, I never had to), and the Health Care Card for those on any sort of pension that gives you more discounts or freebies.

      I'm Type 2, and I used to prick my finger twice a day, until my diet and exercise dropped my weight, and put my diabetes into remission.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Most diabetics?

        "Here in Australia, [...]"

        In England the "National Institute for Health and Care Excellence" (NICE) advises the NHS on the cost effectiveness of particular prescribed treatments. It has apparently recommended that free glucose test strips are not essential for most Diabetes Type 2 patients.

        I do occasional spot tests before all three meals on a selected day - and possibly also two hours after. I have found there is a definite correlation between the trend in those readings and my six-monthly Hba1c.

        The spot results for any one meal are very unpredictable - even for apparently identical ingredients. I once forgot my lunchtime Metformin - but still did the spot check after 2 hours to see the difference it made. The result was a surprisingly low "5.0" - no worse than other tests after the same regular lunch with Metformin.

        If I relied on just the twice a year Hba1c result I would have little idea which particular adjustment to my lifestyle was making a difference either way.

        The Freestyle Libre seems like a convenient way to do a 14 day check once in a while. That would allow the GI effects of various meals to be assessed and adjusted. Trying to approximate that coverage by a series of test strip spot checks every 15 minutes after a meal would be more expensive - and probably pincushion painful.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Most diabetics?

      "[...] and should greatly help in the control of diabetes (for those that can be bothered)."

      When my Type 2 Hba1c trend is upwards my doctor reminds me that I am well controlled compared to many of his patients. That gives the impression that many people treat medication as a magic pill - without seriously adjusting their lifestyle.

  15. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Good (idea) Bad (tracking) & Ugly (possible outcome)

    Brilliant Idea, but a Google tool tracking the real time health status of individuals? bring on the HIPAA (and all the other) audits.

    For safety, testing should not become a background activity that people believe is always working, a failure will produce actual life threatening consequences for the those relying on a warning beep.

    Oh and can we tone down the trend of AI with everything, measuring the amount x in xyz isn't remotely AI.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "[...] measuring the amount x in xyz isn't remotely AI."

    They used to be called Expert Systems - tuned to a narrow field of expertise in which they could match or exceed human correlation capabilities. In this case they are filtering out the noise caused by potential variables affecting the measurement.

    Insulin dependent diabetics can easily become careless and end up with hypoglycemia. That's why there are trained assistance dogs to detect the onset of such a lapse. According to a friend her young children quickly learned to spot her entering such a state. A friend's girlfriend was in a coma state when by chance he decided to visit her - she could have died that day.

    A monitoring device that can indicate when it is no longer functioning correctly - should be as good as those warning systems. If the monitor can also page a remote carer then they are superior. The Freestyle Libre continuous monitor recommends a regime of backup spot checks.

  17. darklord

    great idea but 85% is not tolerable for medical reasons it would have to be 99.9 or better reliable for DVLA and driving lisencing purposes this is why Libre is not accepted by DVLA yet.

    Diabetics on insulin have to check there blood glucose levels at least 2 hours before driving which is mandatory.

    I would love there to be a better way and in the future there will be. its a start for us. keep up the research and well get there.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019