Engineer father builds artificial pancreas for his Type 1 diabetic son
According to American Diabetes Association almost 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year. This estimated figure includes considerable number of Type 1 diabetes cases. Type 1 diabetes (condition where pancreas stop producing insulin) is diagnosed more in young children and third-grader Andrew Calabrese is just one of them. Since, Andrew was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and his pancreas gave up on him, his parents have wanted to do anything possible to make his battle with diabetes less disturbing. While Andrew’s mother Heidi set up a social support group to connect with other people and families battling the life-changing disease, his father Jason (software engineer by profession) built Andrew robotic pancreas that’ll help regulate his insulin levels.
Jason Calabrese developed artificial pancreas for his son using an open source project OpenAPS or Open Artificial Pancreas System. The program designed by Type 1 diabetic Dana Lewis assists anyone who wants to help fight Type 1 diabetes. Following the instructions, and spending almost two months, Jason hacked an old insulin pump to automatically provide insulin in response to Andrew’s blood sugar levels throughout the day and night (dosing for meals is done manually).
Jason combined an old insulin pump with a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM), a computer motherboard and a battery pack. CGM provides blood glucose data to the pump which then automatically delivers insulin in response to Andrew’s body requirement.
The artificial pancreas developed by Jason is a headphone case sized device which has been approved by Andrew’s doctors. Andrew carries his insulin delivering pancreas to school in his backpack.
Jason Calabrese is not the only person who has built DIY artificial pancreas. Reportedly, 50 people have been using the APS technology and robotic pancreas. No such device is officially available on the market yet, a reason people with Type 1 diabetes have only option to built their own pancreas or have it built by someone with programming knowledge. Medical equipment companies are bent at building artificial pancreas and FDA has been pushing them to deliver.
Experts believe using home built pancreas can be risky; Jason agrees to it but admits that it’s still a viable option to assist someone with Type 1 diabetes.