What the heck is an artificial pancreas…

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Big news came out recently.  News that I cried when I read.  News that will forever change my life: the FDA has approved the first artificial pancreas.  (You can read the announcement from JDRF here.)

And while this is exciting news that I have been waiting for, I want to explain why this is so exciting.  I want to help to do my part in getting the message out there about all the latest and greatest in type 1 research.

My current insulin regimen is delivered via an insulin pump (made by the same company that just gained the FDA approval).  I fill a reservoir with insulin that is delivered via tube to an insertion site.  The insertion site contain a tiny, plastic tube that lives under my skin.  All of my insulin is delivered to this site under my skin until I change the insertion set and change the site every 3 days.  Because of my insulin pump being connected to me 24/7, I only use a fast-acting insulin.  (Fast-acting means that it starts working about 15 minutes after injection and only lasts a few hours.  Other insulins can last for up to 24 hours.)  Every hour my insulin pump delivers a small amount of insulin.  This is referred to as my basal insulin: the amount of insulin I need to function properly, at least metabolically speaking.  Then, whenever I eat, I give myself another dose of insulin to balance out how many carbohydrates I’ve eaten.  This is known as a bolus of insulin.  Those are the basics of insulin.  But diabetes is never basic.

I still use a glucose meter to measure my blood sugars about 4 times per day.  The fun new gadget I have used for the past 3 years is my continuous glucose monitor (my CGM).  This device is also under my skin.  Using a tiny, flexible wire sensor, it measures my blood sugar every 5 minutes.  It is calibrated by the 4 finger pokes I still do every day and lasts for about a week.  The sensor connected to the CGM communicates with my insulin pump, giving me a reading of my blood sugars over a 3, 6, or 12-hour window (I can scroll through the windows to see how things have been going).  The most important (and most annoying) feature of this particular CGM system is that the communication with my insulin pump allows for the delivery of my basal insulin to be shut off whenever the sensor detects that my blood sugar is getting too low.  Life-saving, in theory.  Often inaccurate, in practice.  But, being the scientist that I am, I crave the data and put up with the incessant beeping of alarms and turning off of insulin at inappropriate times in order to scroll through those blood sugar curves.

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This isn’t my exact insulin (or my exact waist line) but you get the idea…

Now, why did I bother explaining all of this when the artificial pancreas will make this obsolete?  Because it won’t.  This system is essentially the artificial pancreas.  But there are a few tweaks.  I will still have to calibrate the CGM with blood sugar readings from finger pokes.  However, I don’t have to determine how much insulin I need for a meal.  The pump and the CGM will communicate and decide that without any of my input.  As my blood sugar begins to drop, I won’t hear the alarms.  The basal insulin will be decreased on its own, preventing low blood sugars.  In fact, the clinical trials have shown that with the artificial pancreas, binging to bring a blood sugar back up will become faint memories.  The data are staggering.

Basically, the artificial pancreas is nothing like a pancreas.  There are no cells.  There is no interaction with molecules that impact insulin secretion.  I won’t be making my own insulin.  BUT, this device will act like my pancreas, giving me better glucose control.

So what is next?  A similar system that won’t require calibration of blood sugars from a finger poke and won’t require me to click a button to say that I’m eating a meal.

What else is in our future?  Stem cells.  Using scrapings from my skin or a blood draw, my own cells will be reverted back to their origins as stem cells.  These are known as induced pluripotent stem cells (or IPSCs).  The IPSCs will then be washed in a bath of growth factors and other molecules to turn them into the beta cells of a pancreas.  The newly created cells will then be implanted.  Boom, actual artificial pancreas.  When this will happen, I’m not sure.  The immune system is a huge hurdle.  Only time will tell, but my hopes are high.

For now I’m beyond excited for the artificial pancreas.  Come spring 2017 I’ll be a fully automated diabetic.


Honey in my tea…


On a sad note, my project won’t be starting in July or August (as I had hoped) but rather in September or (gasp!) October.  So after hearing the news, I texted Dan and told him to bust out his credit card to book me on a flight with him to Portland (somebody got a small speaking role in a movie!).  Luckily, I’m a wife who generally gets what she wants (hashtag: husbandbrag).

So in about a week I will be exploring the city of Portland on my first visit anywhere north of San Francisco on the west coast.  I am pumped.

Being a planner, I have already made a short list of things to do during the visit.  There are a few gardens I want to check out, a line of food trailers, and an old friend to catch up with.

But, seriously, the thing that I am most looking forward to?  Honey in my tea at breakfast.  In an effort to control both my weight and my blood sugar I drink my tea black.  But (are you prepared for this excitement?!?) on vacation, I put some honey in my tea when out for breakfast.  It’s a glorious tradition and something that I just. Can’t. Stop. Thinking. About.  Ridiculous? Yes. True? Absolutely.

And if there happen to be any pastries that rival my love of scones.  Well then, everything will be all right in the world…

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Currently, I’m…


Starting: an unintentionally large hoard of snacks at my desk

Reading: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski; this is hardly an exciting update, or even an update, for that matter

Playing: Yahtzee!

Watching: the electric bill go up and the temperatures refuse to go down (Oh no!  It’s hot in SoCal in the middle of July!)

Trying: to keep better track of my water intake: sometimes I’m good, sometimes I’m terrible

Cooking: salad, because, quite honestly, I don’t have the energy to clean up the kitchen after cooking

Eating: peanut butter filled pretzels

Drinking: a chai latte (TGIF)

Calling: the sanitation department to get a new recycling bin, we do a lot of it ’round these parts

Pinning: cute shoes

Doing: crazy Pilates moves (and crying, but only a little)

Going: out on Friday night!

Loving: my facewash going on sale just as my current bottle is just about gone!

Hating: the price of plane tickets

Enjoying: kitten snuggles

Thinking: about eating more peanut butter filled pretzels

Listening: for the boss to leave early so I can sneak home too

Considering: what to buy a sassy 18 year-old for her upcoming birthday

Finishing: reading my first graphic novel; I just took my nerdy to a whole new level, y’all!

Currently, I’m…

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Starting: to feel better (Becca+birthday=summer cold)

Reading: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (still!) and Marvel’s Civil War graphic novel

Playing: Skip-Bo

Watching: Gossip Girl; nothing like three days home in bed to invigorate my love for all things drama and glam

Trying: to get back in the habit of reading before bed each night

Cooking: in my new (squee!) breadmaker

Eating: Greek yogurt

Drinking: water, water, water

Calling: no one, I’m pitiful when I’m sick

Pinning: desserts; the baking bug has bitten me hard

Doing: catch up at work

Going: to lunch

Loving: air conditioning

Hating: mucus

Enjoying: thunderstorms

Thinking: about Christmas (super hot weather always makes me dream of cozy days, bundled up indoors)

Listening: to the Galavant soundtrack; love love LOVE

Considering: coloring more

Finishing: another box of cold-fighting pills, blech (see what I meant about being pitiful?)

I’m going to let you in on a little secret…

People don’t know that much about diabetes.  And it can be frustrating.  Very, very frustrating.download

However, diabetes memes can be funny.  Very, very funny.

So I’m posting this picture which makes a frequent appearance in my talks to brighten up your day (hopefully) and mine (definitely).  Because ignorance is not bliss.  But laughter is the best medicine.  Except insulin.  I prefer insulin just a little bit more…

Currently, I’m…

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Starting: to write more often

Reading: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski and Diabetes: The Biography by Robert Tattersall

Playing: games, the fourth really invigorated my love

Watching: Gossip Girl; seriously, can’t stop, won’t stop

Trying: to curb my vacation spending habits that have leaked over to real life

Cooking: steamed veggies in our rice cooker, it’s genius!

Eating: salad, my vacation eating habits have also leaked a bit

Drinking: tea in a water bottle, someone forgot to bring her mug back to work

Calling: my mother, it was parents’ 30th anniversary on Monday…what?!?

Pinning: pictures of Kate Middleton’s outfits, all day, err day

Doing: lots of Pilates

Going: for long walks, gotta hit my 12,00 steps

Loving: my new iPhone 6 Plus

Hating: my short hair; why can’t it just grow already?

Enjoying: my navy manicure

Thinking: about whether to completely clear out my closet

Listening: to Pandora

Considering: taking a personal day to read for pleasure

Finishing: wedding thank you notes (it’s embarrassing)

A pathetic, 2015 reading challenge update…

Here’s an update on the books I’ve read since my first post:

  • The Four Graces by D.E. Stevenson (rated: 3 out of 5)
  • One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak (rated: 3 out of 5)
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (rated: 4 out of 5)
  • As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley (rated: 5 out of 5)
  • The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley (rated: 5 out of 5)
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt (rated: 4 out of 5)
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore (rated: 5 out of 5)

…and an update on the list:

  1. A book with more than 500 pages The Secret History
  2. A classic romance
  3. A book that became a movie The Road
  4. A book published this year
  5. A book with a number in the title One More Thing
  6. A book written by someone under 30
  7. A book with nonhuman characters Watership Down
  8. A funny book Lamb
  9. A book by a female author The Monogram Murders
  10. A mystery or thriller The Monogram Murders
  11. A book with a one-word title
  12. A book of short stories One More Thing
  13. A book set in a different country The Monogram Murders
  14. A nonfiction book
  15. A popular author’s first book
  16. A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches
  17. A book a friend recommended One More Thing
  18. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Road
  19. A book based on a true story
  20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list
  21. A book your mom loves
  22. A book that scares you
  23. A book more than 100 years old
  24. A book based entirely on its cover
  25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t
  26. A memoir
  27. A book you can finish in a day
  28. A book with antonyms in the title
  29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dus
  30. A book that came out the year you were born
  31. A book with bad reviews
  32. A trilogy
  33. A book from your childhood
  34. A book with a love triangle The Monogram Murders
  35. A book set in the future The Road
  36. A book set in high school The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  37. A book with a color in the title
  38. A book that made you cry
  39. A book with magic
  40. A graphic novel
  41. A book by an author you’ve never read before Watership Down
  42. A book you own but have never read Watership Down
  43. A book that takes place in your hometown
  44. A book that was originally written in a different language
  45. A book set during Christmas
  46. A book written by an author with your same initials
  47. A play
  48. A banned book
  49. A book based on or turned into a TV show
  50. A book you started but never finished

So that brings me up to a total of 10 books read for the year and 18 items off the list.  Not too shabby, but nothing worth bragging.

I recently heard that it’s best to stop reading a book that you’re really not interested in.  Putting it down for a tome that you can’t wait to pick up again after (groan) having to put it down to attend to real life will increase your time spent reading and the number of books you can read that truly bring joy.  In theory, I think it’s a good idea.  I would’ve put down the first two books on the above list (the most recently finished) and may give up on my current read.  But I just don’t think I have it in me.  I pride myself on only ever giving up on Mrs. Dalloway (I’ll see you again soon, Crime and Punishment).  I think of it as quitting.  I’m not a quitter, at least not in somewhat academic pursuits.  I’m fairly confident in my departure from middle school sports and blue eye shadow.  Or, perhaps, I just need a really good book to reinvigorate my inner Belle.  (I honestly cannot recommend Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore enough; if you share my sense of humor (winky face)). Maybe I’ll look up some old friends.  I wonder what Misters Bryson, Salinger, and Heller are up to this weekend…