Tagged: medical


Apple said to be secretly developing a breakthrough device to help diabetics

Why it matters to you

The rewards would be great for any company that succeeds in developing an effective device capable of non-invasively monitoring blood sugar levels. And the world’s nearly half a billion diabetics would certainly warmly welcome it, too.

Apple is reported to be conducting secret research that could ultimately lead to a major breakthrough in how diabetics test their blood sugar levels.

The work is geared toward creating a sensor capable of non-invasively monitoring blood sugar levels, three people with knowledge of the research told CNBC[1] this week.

Aimed at diabetics who regularly have to go through the laborious and uncomfortable procedure of pricking their finger to test blood sugar levels — or have a glucose monitor embedded beneath the skin — a sensor that can perform the same function would be a significant step forward for the medical industry as well as hugely beneficial for diabetics themselves.

Such a device, which apparently involves the use of optical sensors with a light that shines through the skin to measure blood sugar levels, would act as a constant monitor and flag up when levels drop too low, a situation that can turn extremely serious for a diabetic if not quickly treated.

Small team

As of last year, Apple reportedly had around 30 individuals — including “a small team of biomedical engineers” — conducting the research at “a nondescript location in Palo Alto,” a few miles from the tech giant’s Cupertino headquarters, according to CNBC.

The research is reported to have started at least five years ago after the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs expressed an interest in the idea.

If the sources’ accounts are accurate, it seems that Apple is making real progress toward its goal, with feasibility trials reportedly already taking place at clinical sites in and around San Francisco. Consultants have also been hired to examine regulatory issues related to the new technology.

Standalone device?

Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted in a 2015 interview[2] that the company was working on some kind of new medical-related technology and since then Apple has posted several job ads for biomedical engineers and other similar positions. At the same time, Cook suggested that the new technology might not be incorporated into the Apple Watch because he didn’t want “to put the watch through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) process,” suggesting any blood sugar monitor could land as a standalone device.

Other tech firms are known to have been carrying out similar research. Google, for example, said in 2014 that it was working on developing a smart contact lens[3] capable of measuring blood sugar levels, and a year later it revealed it was also working with glucose monitoring company Dexcom to develop a wearable monitor[4].

To create such technology is clearly a monumental challenge, but if, as the sources suggest, Apple is already testing out its work, it may not be too long before the company reveals precisely what it’s been up to. Diabetics, for one, would certainly love to hear about it.


  1. ^ told CNBC (www.cnbc.com)
  2. ^ a 2015 interview (www.telegraph.co.uk)
  3. ^ a smart contact lens (www.digitaltrends.com)
  4. ^ a wearable monitor (www.digitaltrends.com)

WebMD’s Health Pregnancy Study to recruit participants via Apple’s Research Kit

Why it matters to you

WebMD wants to help improve the health of pregnant women. To do so, it’s tapping Apple’s ResearchKit platform.

Apple debuted ResearchKit, a platform that helps scientists recruit participants for studies, back in 2015. Since then, it has been used by the University of Oxford, Stanford Medicine, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. And now, WebMD is joining the fray with its Health Pregnancy Study[1], an effort that will let pregnant women “easily and anonymously” answer questions and share data about their pregnancies with researchers.

“Pregnant women are one of the least studied populations in medical research,” Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) and editor-in-chief of Medscape, said in a statement. “The results of our Healthy Pregnancy Study […] will ultimately provide expectant mothers, researchers, and health care professionals with new medical insights to avoid complications during pregnancy.”

More: The WebMD skill for Amazon’s Alexa can answer all your medical questions[2]

The study, which is launching through WebMD’s newly redesigned Pregnancy app, is being conducted in partnership with the STSI. During a user’s pregnancy, it will ask specific questions about “medication use, vaccinations they may have received, pre-existing conditions, blood pressure and weight change, diagnoses during pregnancy, [and] childbirth location.” During the pregnancy, users will be able to share biometric data such as the number of steps taken and hours slept during pregnancy. And a post-pregnancy component will survey participants on “provider insights and interventions,” the birth size of the baby, and other factors.

As participants progress through pregnancy, WebMD’s Pregnancy app will provide visualizations of trends as data is collected, and allow users to compare their data with that of other pregnant women who share their traits.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 65,000 women in the United States have severe pregnancy complications each year, and that’s despite medical advances. As a result of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and obesity, the rate of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States has increased over the past 25 years.

More: Texas woman turns to WebMD instead of 911 after son is shot[3]

“Over 1.5 million people downloaded WebMD’s Pregnancy mobile app,” Dr. Hansa Bhargava, WebMD’s medical editor and in-house pediatric expert, said. “We will collect large amounts of diverse data that can help scientists and doctors to better understand factors that contribute to healthy pregnancies, [and] ultimately, this will help moms have healthy pregnancies and have healthier babies.”

The Health Pregnancy Study launches on the heels of Mount Sinai Hospital’s asthma patient survey, which used ResearchKit to crowdsource data from 7,600 participants.

It’s a growing trend. The idea of collecting medical research data via smartphones isn’t a new one — indeed, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) launched a project in 2013 to examine the feasibility of collecting phone-based surveys and text messages. But tools like Apple’s ResearchKit lower researchers’ barrier to entry. It’s not perfect — ResearchKit doesn’t support third-party operating systems like Android, for example — but for short-term studies that require rapid enrollment and frequent data collection, it’s useful in a pinch.


A drone may one day save your life

Drones currently occupy a somewhat whimsical space in technology. Want to decorate your Christmas tree[1]? No problem. How about a peek at Apple’s new campus spaceship[2]? And as is often the case with tech products, what starts off as whimsy ends up with a practical business application — hello Amazon drone delivery[3].

Now comes word of a serious, potentially live-saving application for these flying marvels. NBC News[4] reports that EMS response drones could soon be a reality. Imagine you’ve had a car crash and you’re by the side of the road. In zooms the drone, swooping downwards to your location via your smartphone’s GPS. It lands softly nearby loaded with medical supplies, which could very well save your life.

More: ‘Morphing wing’ drone capable of landing just like a bird[5]

According to NBC News, Dr. Italo Subbarao, the senior associate dean at William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine[6], along with a med student, demonstrated last month how a pair of “disaster drones” they developed could deliver “telemedical” packages to victims and rescue teams in a simulated mass-casualty exercise. Subbarao says that these types of drones can get to areas that conventional rescue vehicles may not be able to reach as fast (think a remote mountainous area, although a cell signal for the GPS may be a problem).

“Immediate communications with the victims and reaching them rapidly with aid are both critical to improve outcomes,” Subbarao says. These drones would also give doctors an immediate first-look at victims, whereas otherwise they would have to wait for the victim to arrive at the treatment center.

The report adds that there are still obstacles to overcome, one being the FAA, the government agency that takes a keen interest in such things. Current drone regulations say most have to max out on the scale “at 55 pounds, (with) an altitude ceiling of 400 feet, and line-of-sight operations, that is, within visible range.”

Drone experts at the nearby Hinds Community College[7], with help from Subbarao’s team, designed and built the disaster drones. One “HiRO (Health Integrated Rescue Operations) package” is designed to help a badly injured victim, while the other is meant to aid up to 100 people with a wide variety of injuries — what you might find in a mass-casualty scenario. Both can fly in rough weather as well.

Dennis Lott, director of Hinds CC’s unmanned aerial vehicle program, said “These drones have impressive lift and distance capability, and can carry a variety of sensors, including infrared devices, to help locate victims in the dark.”


  1. ^ decorate your Christmas tree (www.digitaltrends.com)
  2. ^ a peek at Apple’s new campus spaceship (www.digitaltrends.com)
  3. ^ Amazon drone delivery (www.digitaltrends.com)
  4. ^ NBC News (www.nbcnews.com)
  5. ^ ‘Morphing wing’ drone capable of landing just like a bird (www.digitaltrends.com)
  6. ^ William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine (www.wmcarey.edu)
  7. ^ Hinds Community College (www.hindscc.edu)