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Open Source Artificial Pancreas Helps Engineer's Son Survive With Type 1 Diabetes 104

HughPickens.com writes: More than one million Americans live with Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune condition in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone needed to turn sugar into energy. Now Kate Linebaugh writes at the WSJ that Jason Calabrese, a software engineer, followed instructions that had been shared online to hack an old insulin pump so it could automatically dose the hormone in response to his son's blood-sugar levels. The Calabreses aren't alone. More than 50 people have soldered, tinkered and written software to make such devices for themselves or their children. Initially, Calabrese worried about the safety of the do-it-yourself project. He built it over two months, and spent weeks testing. At first, he only tried it out on his son on weekends and at night. Once it performed well enough, he said it felt irresponsible not to use it on his 9-year-old son. "Diabetes is dangerous anyway. Insulin is dangerous. I think what we are doing is actually improving that and lowering the risk," says Calabrese. The home-built project that the Calabreses followed is known as OpenAPS. The only restriction of the project is users have to put the system together on their own. As long as the people tinkering with their insulin pumps aren't selling or distributing them, the FDA doesn't have a legal means to stop it. The system involves an outdated insulin pump that communicates with a small radio stick connected to a continuous glucose monitor, a computer motherboard and a battery pack. It is an outgrowth of another open-source project where caregivers developed software to remotely monitor blood-sugar levels. The size of the homemade system varies, and the one that Calabrese carries has come down from the size of a small shoebox to that of a headphone case. He wears his insulin pump and glucose monitor on his belt. "It is clearly for people who have some expertise in computer programming," says Bruce Buckingham. "What it shows is that people are anxious to get something going."
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Open Source Artificial Pancreas Helps Engineer's Son Survive With Type 1 Diabetes

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  • When information is shared instead of hoarded by those shackled by intellectual property laws, non disclosure agreements, etc. then we may find cures. This might be because the cure is not in the best interest of some folks in this business. It won't surprise me one bit if major breakthroughs that have eluded big pharma for years are just around the corner - and might cost them their big earnings on chronic, incurable, lifelong illness.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That's illegal. Now he should turn himself in. The law says "hacking" is criminal so now he is guilty and a criminal. It's the law!

  • Medical hacking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by terminal.dk ( 102718 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @01:51AM (#52089257) Homepage

    Medical hacking is the way forward. The established industry will fight it, but there are so many engineers and other tech people out there that will come up with solutions to their own problems, or that of their families.
    This is not the first time we hear about this. Many of the problems in the health industry is continously monitoring, and reacting upon values. This is just as much an IT discipline as a medical discipline. With low power computers (Arduino as an example), all types of sensors being available for cheap etc, we are almost where the computer industry was around 1975-80. engineers and hobbyists will hack together such devices. It is trivial to monitor blood glucose using a sensor on i2c. You could add 2 for redundancy. Then write code, and decide what to do with abnormal values.

    The problem for the established industry is, that things will get invented by users before the medical industry gets there = no patents.

    • DMCA 2 may stop that but if it has jail/prison time then the uses win as when they are in lockup the state is on hook for there medical costs.

      • Yeah, except that the level of care given in correctional facilities is terrible.

        A friend of mine died shortly after being released from prison (they released him because of his medical condition btw) because they wouldn't care for his leukemia properly.

      • by cbrese ( 551729 )
        There's an exemption to DCMA for medical device research, see http://cyberlawclinic.berkman.... [harvard.edu]
  • I'm sure the FDA is wracking it's brains looking for a way it can jump in and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  • I wish they didn't call it an artificial pancreas as insulin is only one of hormones secreted by that organ. It also has to be re-filled with insulin while the pancreas does not. It is an automatic insulin pump not an artificial pancreas. It is a great device and does not need the hype.

    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

      It also has to be re-filled with insulin while the pancreas does not.

      If you want to nit pick, the pancreas also needs refilled, it just does so biologically.

      • That's stretching it ;)

        The pancreas synthesises insulin (amongst other hormones and enzymes). The pump has to be refilled from an external source and cannot synthesise anything.

  • Certain brands of continuous glocose sensor, insulin pump, an insulin pump with glucagon instead of insul, and iPhone app already provide this commercially.

    * http://www.imedicalapps.com/20... [imedicalapps.com]

    It's very interesting that open source software is available and I applaud the father for his involvement with his son's medical issues. I'd urge him to be very careful indeed: many programmers of my acquaintance fail to properly sanitize their inputs, and not to properly handle edge cases. And remote controlled insulin

  • Good to see people do an end run around the hellthcare industrial complex to save theirs and their loved one lives lives. Too bad they HAVE to do this.
  • Good to see people do an end run around the hellthcare industrial complex to save theirs and their loved one lives lives. Too bad t hey HAVE to do this.
  • by Zeromous ( 668365 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2016 @10:35AM (#52091239) Homepage

    Clearly there is a market, why hasn't American Style medicare identified and kickstarted this already?

    Oh, it's because the profit isn't BIG enough. It's too open source.

    Chew on that for a while next time you vote in the old USA.

    • by Havokmon ( 89874 )

      Clearly there is a market, why hasn't American Style medicare identified and kickstarted this already?

      Oh, it's because the profit isn't BIG enough. It's too open source.

      Chew on that for a while next time you vote in the old USA.

      heh - I'd love to see your FDA-Compliant paperwork on your homemade open source project. You know, the complete device history and quality data that would be used in the event of an odd occurrence (which in business might trigger a recall to repair or replace those products). Do you have ANY idea how much quality crap and documentation has to be handled to release a medical device that doesn't even get ingested or implanted? Oh you don't have that? That's what you're paying for - either you bitch about

  • Maybe in your country but not the USA.

    The FDA has lawyers, which means they have the legal means. In addition, having or not having the law on their side means nothing to washington bureaucrats since there are no consequences to abusing the law.

Why did the Roman Empire collapse? What is the Latin for office automation?

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