The latest figure published by the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed an estimated of 422 million adults are living with diabetes. A rapid increase from 108 million in 1980. Globally, the number of affected individuals continue to grow. Artificial intelligence (AI) are revolutionizing the field as wearables and non-invasive measuring methods are now in the act. At the same time, related funding has reached $6 billion in 2017. However, are we on the winning end of this combat? 

From predicting, diagnosis to management 

A group of researchers from Switzerland had developed a deep learning network capable of predicting blood sugar level. The model comes with a long short term memory (LSTM) layer, a two-directional LSTM later and several other connected layers to combine inputs and memory for more accurate prediction. The model has now been tested on 26 datasets and 20 diabetic patients. The team hopes that eventually, the model will not only predict but also detect upcoming hyper or hypoglycemic episodes. 

Companies like Diabnext, Hedia, and MedicSen are using AI to monitor diabetic patients’ habits and blood glucose variations. The information will render a more personalized analyses of their respective conditions. This will be useful for doctors to adjust the daily insulin intake and patients to better manage their symptoms. On the other hand, Glucowise revamped the traditional method of piercing through one’s skin for measuring blood sugar level. Instead, sensors installed on the device will read patients’ blood glucose level directly. 

Last May, a startup company Bionics received Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval to begin a clinical trial on its AI-powered “bionic pancreas system”, that is able to independently and automatically regulate blood glucose level round the clock. 

Is human on the winning end? 

While AI and related new technology may sound like exciting changes, experts believe education is the key to ensure all of their success in fighting against diabetes. Speaking at the recent Arab Health Congress 2019, Dr. Ralph Abraham, consultant in diabetes and endocrinology and clinical director of the London Diabetes Centre said it is crucial “to help a patient understand that their knowledge and behavior are integral to any successful strategy”. 

At the moment, researchers and practitioners have an active interest in predicting and helping patients to manage their condition. Technology has also aid in the better allocation of resources. Nevertheless, there remains a gap between the actions of the experts and patients. At the end of the day, unless patients have the will to change their lifestyle and take control of their health, there is just so much technology and physicians can do to help them.

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Hazel Tang

A science writer with data background and an interest in current affair, culture and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.