Entries in insulin (5)


Can Your Insulin Pump Be Hacked?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Technology security experts have sent out a warning about the potential vulnerability of sensitive equipment -- not computers, but medical devices such as insulin pumps.

A researcher from McAfee, the global tech security company, was able to hack into an insulin pump and cause the device to dispense all 300 units of insulin it contained, according to BBC News.

The wireless signals used to communicate with the pump could compromise the security of the device, researcher Barnaby Jack said.

“We can influence any pump within a 300-foot range,” Jack told the BBC. “We can make that pump dispense its entire 300 unit reservoir of insulin and we can do that without requiring its ID number.”

A single dose of that much insulin can be fatal.

Jack wasn’t the first person to hack into an insulin pump.  In 2011, a diabetic experimenting with his own equipment identified security vulnerabilities that could leave these machines open to someone remotely controlling their readings.  He presented his findings at a computer security conference later that year.

Other devices that use wireless signals to monitor patient’s medical conditions include pacemakers and defibrillators, which are also vulnerable to attack.

While the potential dangers are very real, other experts say the devices are very safe overall.

“There is no silver bullet, it’s not that these problems are easy to address,” he said. “But there is technology available to reduce these risks significantly,” Kevin Fu, associate professor of computer science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, told the BBC.

Dr. Tadayoshi Kohno wrote about the security of these devices in a 2010 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.  At that time, he stressed to ABC News that the risk to patients is very low.

“I would have no qualms about getting one of the devices on the market now if I needed them,” Kohno said. “I think it’s preparing for the unexpected [that matters]....The last thing we want is, in five or 10 years, to think, ‘Oops we should have thought about security.’”

Outside of experiments, there have been no known incidents of medical device hacking, and doctors say using this type of equipment can life-saving.

“Manufacturers have to make them to an extremely high level of liability.  They are critical to life,” said Dr. David Lubarsky, professor and chief of the University of Miami Health System.  “Diabetes is infinitely more dangerous than the possibility of a hacker deciding to target your insulin pump.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Major Push for Quicker Approval of Artificial Pancreas

Jeffrey Hamilton/Lifesize/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Jeffrey Brewer, the president and CEO of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), has a very personal reason for wanting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to expedite their review of the artificial pancreas -- a portable device used to help people with type 1 diabetes control their blood sugar levels through the use of an insulin pump, a continuous glucose monitor and computer software.

Brewer's son has type 1 diabetes, meaning his body doesn't produce insulin.  Type 1 diabetics either have to self-administer insulin or use pumps that release insulin throughout the day.

"Diabetics have to self-prescribe insulin all day long, and they can makes mistakes and occasionally kill themselves," he said.  "My son almost died because he gave himself too much insulin.  The insulin pump didn't have the right features to shut off insulin delivery."

According to JDRF, as many as three million Americans may have type 1 diabetes, and Brewer said the artificial pancreas can potentially save those people's lives.

But the FDA, he said, has been slow in moving along the approval process.  In an effort to expedite bringing the product to market, JDRF, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), health professionals, and individuals with type 1 diabetes gathered in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to urge the FDA to take quicker action.

Brewer said their goal is to encourage the FDA to implement policy changes and guidance that will allow devices to get to market faster and also allow for research into new products to help with insulin control.  The FDA, in response to the criticism, says it is eager for the product to be available, but it needs to be sure it is safe and effective for consumers.

"FDA policies have delayed introductions of products such as the artificial pancreas to Americans by up to three years that are being safely used by people around the world with type 1 diabetes, and they prevent us from doing vital research in the U.S.," said Brewer.

The FDA is currently preparing recommendations for getting the artificial pancreas approved for use in the U.S., but Brewer said the agency's advice -- called draft guidance -- delays the approval process and doesn't take the recommendations of experts into account.

The meeting in Washington is another of JDRF's efforts to push the FDA forward.  The group also took out full-page newspaper ads and posted a petition on its website.  That petition, JDRF said, received more than 100,000 signatures in only three weeks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Inhaled Insulin for Alzheimer’s: Some Researchers Hopeful

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- Insulin inhaled through the nose is among the latest research to create buzz around Alzheimer’s treatment.

Researchers from the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle found that patients who received an insulin nasal spray experienced improved memory when compared to those who did not receive the spray treatment. Alzheimer’s patients in the study also showed better overall daily function.

“This is really exciting news,” ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser said on Good Morning America. “It’s been known for a long time that people who have type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease, so the question is: Could insulin, which is used to treat diabetes, play a role in Alzheimer’s disease?”

Insulin plays an important role in regulating blood sugar and cell repair.

“We know that insulin has a role in terms of providing energy to the brain, but it also [works] as a brain growth factor in a way, helping nerves work together,” said Besser. “So, they tried this and they found…patients treated with a low dose of insulin had a decline in their loss of function and a slight improvement in their short-term memory.”

But experts warn that the study, published in the journal Neurology, was small -- only 104 total patients -- and it is too soon to say whether the treatment is safe and effective. The study lasted four months, which researchers noted was way too soon to allow for any concrete proof of efficacy.

To make these findings more than just hopeful, researchers plan to carry out larger and longer studies, scheduled to begin next summer.

In the meantime, hit the gym.  It may keep your brain healthy.

“Every time you exercise, your insulin levels go up,” Besser told GMA. “So, there’s no reason to not go out and get a little more exercise, but it’s too soon to be treating [Alzheimer's] with insulin.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Could Wrist Size Predict Future Diabetes?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Predicting an overweight child's risk of diabetes and heart disease may be as simple as measuring the size of his or her wrist, according to new research published by the American Heart Association. In the study, published in the latest addition of the journal Circulation, wrist size was linked to insulin resistance, a precursor for type 2 diabetes, in overweight kids and teens.

"This is the first evidence that wrist circumference is highly correlated to evidence of insulin resistance," Dr. Raffaella Buzzetti, senior study author and professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, said in a statement. "Wrist circumference is easily measured and if our work is confirmed by future studies, wrist circumference could someday be used to predict insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease risk."

Though measuring body fat is usually a reliable predictor of insulin resistance and heart disease risk in adults, this is not always the case for kids because their bodies grow and change so rapidly during puberty. Typically, doctors will measure a teen's BMI (body mass index) by comparing height and weight. This may be a misleading gauge, however, especially for athletes who may have a high percentage of muscle, which weighs more than fat.

In the study, researchers analyzed how wrist size and BMI correlated with levels of insulin resistance. While BMI only accounted for 1 percent of variation in insulin resistance, the wrist measurement accounted for between 12 and 17 percent.

Insulin resistance occurs when the body has difficulty using the insulin it makes to break down blood sugar. Excess body fat is linked to developing insulin resistance, and insulin resistance has been identified as a major risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes later in life.

Surprisingly, researchers found that it wasn't necessarily a fatter wrist that correlated with higher heart disease risk, just a larger one. Because higher insulin levels in kids can contribute to increased bone production, larger wrist bones may be a marker of insulin resistance, which in turn is a predictor of future heart disease.

"It's surprising that bone size correlated better [to insulin resistance] than body mass index," says Dr. Robert Gensure, endocrine specialist and pediatric bone density specialist at Montefiore Medical Center. "Insulin is a growth factor and it promotes growth in many tissues, including bone."

This means that some kids and teens who are overweight are actually becoming bigger-boned in response to the extra insulin their bodies are producing. Buzzetti's research is picking up on this change and using those bigger bones as an indicator of the higher levels of insulin that put kids at risk for future heart disease and diabetes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Finds Three Times-a-week Insulin Improves Glucose Levels

Jeffrey Hamilton/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If Vicki Taniwaki eats three meals in a day, she will have "stuck" herself with insulin at least five times by the time she goes to bed at night.

Taniwaki has been diagnosed with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. She must take two basal injections, or background insulin, and three bolus injections, an insulin to control her glucose levels after meals, every single day of her life.

But, as normal as this routine has become for Taniwaki, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in August 2007, she said there is certainly room for error with all those sticks and pricks.

"Anything you do that much becomes routine, but the opportunity to screw it up also goes up as you become more lax and comfortable with it," said the 50-year-old.

When Taniwaki heard about a study that found the background shot of insulin could be lowered from one or two times a day to three times a week, she said it could be a positive change to her day.

"Anything that would diminish or curtail that maintenance routine would be good," said Taniwaki. "Some people could argue that then you would have to worry about trying to remember when you did that background injection, but if I could do roughly half of what I'm doing now I would be very happy."

While the new type of insulin is not available on the market right now, Taniwaki could be cutting back on stick and pricks in the future.

A new study, published in the Lancet, found that a longer acting form of insulin, known as degludec, is just as effective as the existing long-lasting insulin, glargine.

One injection of glargine lasts 18 to 26 hours, but study participants who used degludec had the same amount of blood sugar control as glargine while only getting injected three times a week instead of daily.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio