Apple working on breakthrough glucose sensors for Apple Watch, report says

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 12
Apple has reportedly hired a team of biomedical engineers to develop noninvasive glucose sensors for integration in Apple Watch, a solution that could lead to continuous monitoring of blood sugar levels for users with diabetes.




Citing sources familiar with the matter, CNBC on Wednesday reported Apple's small biomedical engineering group is part of a "super secret" initiative, first imagined by late cofounder Steve Jobs, to create a noninvasive glucose monitoring solution. The company has been working on the project for at least five years, the report said.

Tracking blood sugar levels without drawing blood is a difficult feat, and many large corporations have attempted to create similar systems without success. If Apple is able to succeed where others have failed, it would not only be a boon for Apple Watch, but validate the company's recent interest in medical research.

The diabetes research team, stationed in an office building somewhere in Palo Alto, is said to be ready to conduct feasibility trials, a major step toward gaining necessary federal regulatory approvals. Apple could begin testing the process at clinical sites in and around the San Francisco Bay Area, according to the report.

While details are sparse, sources claim Apple's technology involves optical sensors capable of measuring indications of glucose in the blood stream through a user's skin. About 30 people were said to be part of the engineering team a year ago, though that number could have increased following acquisitions and recent hires from the biomedical field.

For example, Apple last June hired Dr. Rajiv Kumar, a pediatric specialist who formerly worked for Stanford Children's Health. Kumar was one of the first medical professionals to take advantage of Apple's HealthKit platform, facilitating a ResearchKit study on Type 1 diabetes monitoring. Though his previous work focused on diabetes, it is unclear if Kumar is part of Apple's glucose monitoring technology team.

Perhaps most closely aligned with today's report is a 2013 hiring spree that picked up former employees of defunct biotech company C8 MediSensors. Before going out of business, C8 specialized in non-invasive sensors capable of tracking substances in the body, including glucose.

Since the debut of HealthKit in 2014, Apple has increasingly focused on health and fitness products. A report last year suggests the company's interest in health sciences was sparked by a challenge from Jobs, who wanted to fix what he viewed as a disjointed healthcare system. Jobs believed technology could solve a data gap between patients and healthcare professionals, an idea that gave rise to HealthKit, ResearchKit and ultimately Apple Watch.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 79

    Citing sources familiar with the matter, CNET on Wednesday reported Apple's small biomedical engineering group is part of a "super secret" initiative,
    So secret CNET knows about it. 

    I'm curious and really have no idea, but would glucose sensors be handy for people who do not have diabetes?  For instance, would they be able to tell you when you need to be careful or track your levels over time and then be able to tell you that at this rate you're likely heading toward diabetes, time to change your diet?

    If so, that could be useful for more people than those who already have diabetes. 
    edited April 12 watto_cobrapscooter63repressthis
  • Reply 2 of 79
    schlackschlack Posts: 593member
    don't have any known glucose issues...but would still love to have this in a watch...since I assume it could alert me if one day I started to have issues...even could be useful during extended exercise I would think.
    watto_cobrarepressthis
  • Reply 3 of 79
    I'm a Garmin Forerunner 235 user at the moment, but having this in the Apple Watch would get me to buy one. I'm a "well-controlled" Type II diabetic (yay, Metformin!), and anything that reduces the number of times I have to poke my fingers with something sharp each day is a HUGE selling point. As my endocrinologist points out, we don't know what happens during the time between readings, and my blood glucose could be all over the place or super steady. A non-invasive way to watch the BG response to different foods, different medications, etc. would be...pretty substantial to me.
    watto_cobrachiapscooter63mwhiteh2prepressthisjSnivelydementuschikancityguide
  • Reply 4 of 79
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 3,652member
    Hurry up Apple!  The Samsungs of the world are eagerly waiting to rip off your work!
    trashman69lkrupp
  • Reply 5 of 79
    polymniapolymnia Posts: 564member
    With my family history, I'm always interested in diabetes management tech. Hopefully I never need it, but happy to know the tech is improving. My dad has been on insulin for years and his dad died young of complications. I'd rather wear a watch than prick my finger a few times everyday.


    repressthisStrangeDays
  • Reply 6 of 79
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 29,087member
    Yes, this would be helpful for anyone who wants to keep track of the levels. It would give people a really good idea as to how their system is responding to various types of food, and would therefor help to maintain a safer diet. As we get older, as my doctor reminds me, we must be more careful of what we eat. Our bodies become less capable of handling big swings in sugar levels as we age. Seeing what's happening over the day, and having that charted by the Health app would be really useful, much more so than a heart sensor.
    StrangeDaysallmypeopleSpamSandwich
  • Reply 7 of 79
    I recall reading that the current Apple Watch sensors' accuracy sometimes depends on the nature of the wearer's skin -- e.g., dark skin may be harder to penetrate optically.

    If this is true, I wonder if any future glucose-monitoring tools would face the same challenges.
  • Reply 8 of 79
    Please add sleep tracking 
    netrox
  • Reply 9 of 79
    Well judging by how Theranos did WITH blood, I wouldn't be surprised if this never comes to fruition. Also, if it does, I feel for all the PCM/GPs that will have to deal with the frantic my blood sugar is too high/low consults from non diabetics.
    patchythepirate
  • Reply 10 of 79
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,409member
    The number of people suffering from type 2 diabetes is growing rapidly  - currently some 30 million people in the US, of which about a third are undiagnosed. The 'new' big killer in society is undoubtedly sugar (and carbohydrates generally), and if you do a bit of research you will see obvious parallels between the steady  increase of carbohydrates in our diets and obesity and all sorts of other ailments - all very costly in terms of national health care. If the watch can read glucose levels in real time that will be a big deal. There are currently devices that can do that, and work with the iPhone and the Apple Watch, but they are not very accurate and not truly 'real time'. If the Apple Watch can read true real time glucose levels and do so reliably it can eventually be used to control insulin pumps and by so doing make artificial pancreases a reality. This would be huge for type 1 diabetics. The long term cost savings to health care could be significant. 

    More than 30 000 people are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year, many of those are young kids and toddlers. For sufferers this would obviously be great news and for parents of kids with diabetes this would make a massive difference. 

    If the Apple Watch can do this without the user requiring a continuous supply of expensive 'patches' or whatever it would be truly disruptive. The problem with companies that develop medical devices or solutions to help people live with a given condition is that it is rarely in their interest to reduce cost, nor to find a solution that will put them out of business. If all that is needed is an Apple Watch that would be a massive cash saving for individuals or insurance companies alike. 

    Of of course if we could disrupt the food industry and banish most carbohydrates from our diets many of these costs would automatically vanish, but unfortunately that is unlikely to ever happen. I read somewhere that the sugar companies spend more than any other lobbying. :(


    edited April 13 lkalliance
  • Reply 11 of 79
    thttht Posts: 2,536member
    If they can get good blood glucose measurements using spectroscopy (raman, near infrared) with some fancy machine learning algorithms I'm sure, it doesn't stop there, and it can open up a whole bunch of other things. 

    Hemoglobin, hematocrit levels. Blood oxygen is probably already there on the Watch, but they have chosen not to do it, maybe because of medical device regulations. A blood pressure band for the Watch seems eminently doable. Cholesterol levels? Triglycerides? Platelets? Clotting factors? Vitamin levels?

    Blood glucose will be a rather large step. 
    repressthisfastasleepGeorgeBMacTomE
  • Reply 12 of 79
    thttht Posts: 2,536member
    I recall reading that the current Apple Watch sensors' accuracy sometimes depends on the nature of the wearer's skin -- e.g., dark skin may be harder to penetrate optically.

    If this is true, I wonder if any future glucose-monitoring tools would face the same challenges.

    It was tattoos and hair, not dark skin.
    lolliverchiaRayz2016StrangeDays
  • Reply 13 of 79
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 3,652member
    securtis said:
    Well judging by how Theranos did WITH blood, I wouldn't be surprised if this never comes to fruition. Also, if it does, I feel for all the PCM/GPs that will have to deal with the frantic my blood sugar is too high/low consults from non diabetics.
    Not the same thing.  Theranos tried testing everything under the sun within a drop of blood, and claimed results that it did not.  Current glucose testing can be done with less than one full drop of blood.  I check mine daily.

    I don't have (yet) an Apple Watch but if they were to perfect a way to do it, I'd jump on the Apple-watch bandwagon just for that alone.

    Glucose testing along with sleep-apnea testing will be the gold-rush time for Apple should they figure it out.
    chiapatchythepiraterandominternetperson
  • Reply 14 of 79
    tht said:
    I recall reading that the current Apple Watch sensors' accuracy sometimes depends on the nature of the wearer's skin -- e.g., dark skin may be harder to penetrate optically.

    If this is true, I wonder if any future glucose-monitoring tools would face the same challenges.

    It was tattoos and hair, not dark skin.
    Ah, thank you for that correction.
  • Reply 15 of 79
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 874member
    paxman said:
    The number of people suffering from type 2 diabetes is growing rapidly  - currently some 30 million people in the US, of which about a third are undiagnosed. The 'new' big killer in society is undoubtedly sugar (and carbohydrates generally), and if you do a bit of research you will see obvious parallels between the steady  increase of carbohydrates in our diets and obesity and all sorts of other ailments - all very costly in terms of national health care. If the watch can read glucose levels in real time that will be a big deal. There are currently devices that can do that, and work with the iPhone and the Apple Watch, but they are not very accurate and not truly 'real time'. If the Apple Watch can read true real time glucose levels and do so reliably it can eventually be used to control insulin pumps and by so doing make artificial pancreases a reality. This would be huge for type 1 diabetics. The long term cost savings to health care could be significant. 

    More than 30 000 people are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year, many of those are young kids and toddlers. For sufferers this would obviously be great news and for parents of kids with diabetes this would make a massive difference. 

    If the Apple Watch can do this without the user requiring a continuous supply of expensive 'patches' or whatever it would be truly disruptive. The problem with companies that develop medical devices or solutions to help people live with a given condition is that it is rarely in their interest to reduce cost, nor to find a solution that will put them out of business. If all that is needed is an Apple Watch that would be a massive cash saving for individuals or insurance companies alike. 

    Of of course if we could disrupt the food industry and banish most carbohydrates from our diets many of these costs would automatically vanish, but unfortunately that is unlikely to ever happen. I read somewhere that the sugar companies spend more than any other lobbying. :(


    You saved me from writing. If this plays out and they can make readings accurate, it would be enough for me to buy one. It would be a major step forward and especially for people with low sensitivity who run the risk of having issues while they sleep and not waking themselves to deal with the problem.
  • Reply 16 of 79
    ivanhivanh Posts: 9member
    It's all about a tiny sensor. When it's invented, Apple or Samsung uses it, integrate it and write codes for it.  If this kind of sensor has been there, at least one "real" Glucose Level monitor should be using it without a smartphone. Have you ever seen Apple makes even one electronic component in the past?
  • Reply 17 of 79
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 3,652member
    ivanh said:
    . Have you ever seen Apple makes even one electronic component in the past?
    Have you?
  • Reply 18 of 79
    sflocal said:
    securtis said:
    Well judging by how Theranos did WITH blood, I wouldn't be surprised if this never comes to fruition. Also, if it does, I feel for all the PCM/GPs that will have to deal with the frantic my blood sugar is too high/low consults from non diabetics.
    Not the same thing.  Theranos tried testing everything under the sun within a drop of blood, and claimed results that it did not.  Current glucose testing can be done with less than one full drop of blood.  I check mine daily.

    I don't have (yet) an Apple Watch but if they were to perfect a way to do it, I'd jump on the Apple-watch bandwagon just for that alone.

    Glucose testing along with sleep-apnea testing will be the gold-rush time for Apple should they figure it out.


    I am a type II diabetic. I check my glucose levels once in 3 days. I stagger the time - before breakfast, 2 hours after, 2 hours before lunch, 2 hours after... That way I get readings over the course of the day. Do you stagger your checks as well?


    If Apple can pull off constant monitoring of glucose levels, the Apple Watch will go from "must have" to "indispensable".

    repressthis
  • Reply 19 of 79
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 1,684member
    ivanh said:
    It's all about a tiny sensor. When it's invented, Apple or Samsung uses it, integrate it and write codes for it.  If this kind of sensor has been there, at least one "real" Glucose Level monitor should be using it without a smartphone. Have you ever seen Apple makes even one electronic component in the past?
    Er … yes. 
    Let's start with the A processors, move on to the display controllers in the 5K iMac, the W1 chip in the headphones…
    fastasleepStrangeDaysRoyfb
  • Reply 20 of 79
    If possible I'd like to see both Glucose and Ketone levels for testing. In fact Apple really should add a Ketone measurement NOW in HealthKit so I can plug the numbers in manually. Ketone levels are an important part of a Ketogenic Diet regime.
    edited April 13
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