Apple has a secret team working on a non-invasive way to monitor a diabetic's blood sugar4
Currently, diabetics use a glucometer to test their blood sugar level. The machines are sold using the ol' razor and blades method. The machines are relatively cheap and some are given away. But each time a test is performed, it requires the insertion of a very expensive test strip that must be discarded after each use.
Developing a way to track blood sugars without having to draw a small amount of blood has been the goal of many pharmaceutical firms. Apple has been working on the project since 2010. Jobs had a plan to sell a smartwatch that would monitor the wearer's oxygen level, heart rate and glucose level. When speculation was rampant over the features of the Apple Watch before the timepiece was unveiled, there was constant talk that it would monitor the wearer's blood sugar. But before the timepiece was introduced, Apple reportedly pulled the feature from the watch since it was not ready for prime time.
The glucose reading is important because diabetics use it to determine if they need to take a shot of insulin. If they do, the reading will help them determine the dose. If a diabetic is flying blind without a machine and he/she injects too much insulin, a coma and even death could be the result.
At last count about 30 people are on this secret glucose team, although a dozen experts from medical firms like Medtronic have joined Apple since. Not all of the experts have joined the glucose team with some working with the Apple Watch crew. Apple is looking at a method that would shine light through the skin to measure glucose levels. One of the top men in the glucose monitoring industry, John L. Smith, calls this pursuit "the most difficult technical challenge I have encountered in my career." It is one that could cost "several hundred millions or even a billion dollars," according to DexCom executive chairman Terrance Gregg.
DexCom currently sells an FDA approved sensor that is used in conjunction with an app to monitor glucose levels. The sensor uses Bluetooth to send data to the diabetic's smartphone or tablet, where it is analyzed by the app. The sensor measures blood sugar without using a blood sample; still, to calibrate the sensor every so often, the diabetic needs to obtain a reading the current way, by using a blood sample coming from a needle stick.
DexCom has also worked with Google on a sensor smaller than a band aid that will monitor a diabetic's glucose level. And Google has been working on a smart contact lens that measures blood sugar from the eye.
If any of these new systems make it to market, life would be less painful and more fulfilling for diabetics. And with better monitoring of their blood, they can keep their readings at the levels necessary to have healthy and long lives.