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A sack full of insulin, a car charger for your pump and other new gadgets

If the handful of approvals from the FDA are any indication, 2012 may prove to be a fun year for those of us living with diabetes! In the first month of 2012 we've seen more action from the FDA around diabetes than I can remember seeing in a long time. In this article I'll tell you why some of it has me excited and what I think it means.

The t:slim insulin pump

There are a handful of reasons that I'm excited about the approval of the t:slim insulin pump by Tandem Diabetes Care. First, it looks very cool. It has a beautiful touchscreen interface, and the screen looks smart and easy to use. Second, it is a very compact pump. According to their marketing material, it's sized like a credit card and as slim as a smart phone.

The t:slim has a rechargeable power cell, so you won't be buying and changing batteries. Instead, you'll plug it in with a USB cable for a few minutes at a time (when showering, or even driving!) which is supposed to give it plenty of juice. That's the third interesting thing about it. Rechargeable batteries can be a blessing and a curse, so time will tell how well this concept works in the real world.

The fourth, and most exciting to me, is the fact that t:slim isn't using the standard syringe and push-rod insulin delivery system. Their cartridge has a sack, or bladder, that you fill with insulin, which is delivered through their proprietary "Micro-Delivery" technology. I saw an animation of this at the 2011 AADE conference, and it is very neat. Tandem says that animation will be available on their website closer to product launch, which they think will be this summer.

Why is this new delivery method exciting? It circles back to the FDA. Every other pump that we've seen so far has followed the easier path of approval by using a delivery method that previously approved pumps used; the syringe and push-rod. If the new system is based on an old system, the approval process is somewhat easier and perhaps less expensive, but there's very little innovation. In short, taking the safe path through the FDA approval process really limits what we see in the final products and devices.

With Tandem Diabetes receiving FDA approval using a completely new method of delivering insulin from the pump into the infusion tubing, that opens the door for many new ideas.

Other technology developments

In other gadget news, the iBGStar, the first blood glucose monitor that connects directly to an iPhone, received FDA clearance. There's no word yet on when it might be available, but I'm dying to get my hands on one to give it a try.

Medtronic recently released the mySentry remote pump and CGM monitoring station. It looks like an alarm clock, but displays information from an insulin pump and CGM, which gives caregivers and parents of children with diabetes another great tool to help keep their loved ones safe. As with many new devices, it is expensive (around $3000) and not yet covered by insurance, but I think that will change with time.

Similar to my excitement around t:slim's new delivery method, I'm excited about this opening new doors. I'm sure this new device from Medtronic is small step in the big picture of expanding the limits of our information. If they can get a device approved to send information from a child's bedroom into a parent's bedroom, we can only imagine what might come next.

About Scott K Johnson

Scott has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1980. Follow him on The Diabetes Collective as he shares his experiences, discusses new products and trends and offers words of encouragement about living with type 1 diabetes.

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