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The latest in diabetes technologies and treatments

Highlights from the ATTD and a summary of the research presented by the ACBRD

By Jasmine Schipp [1] and Shaira Baptista [2]


A few members of the ACBRD team were in Madrid last week for the 13th International Conference on Advanced Technologies & Treatments for Diabetes (ATTD: 19-22 Feb 2020). There were over 3,700 attendees from all around the world, all interested in hearing about the latest advancements in diabetes technologies and how people with diabetes and health professionals can benefit from them.

There was a big focus on user-led technologies, with many presentations on open-source artificial pancreas systems [5] (also known as ‘DIY APS’ or ‘looping’). On Wednesday, Prof Katharine Barnard [6] chaired a workshop on what needs to be included in DIY APS guidelines. Tim Street [7] presented a poster [8] on the role that citizen science plays in the uptake of new diabetes technologies and treatments. Jonathan Garfinkel [9] presented a poster on his experiences [10] with using ‘Loop’. John Lum [11] presented results from an observational study of Loop, which showed improvements in glycaemic outcomes and statistically significant improvements in sleep quality, fear of hypoglycaemia and diabetes management distress. Dr Shane O’Donnell [12] (OPEN Diabetes project [13]) presented results from their DIWHY survey [14], which focused on lived experiences. People had very positive experiences, however some reported challenges in building their systems, such as technical issues and sourcing hardware. Peer support was very important in helping people overcome these barriers. Finally, Amy Winchcombe [15]shared her personal experience [16] of using an open-source system. She and her family now worry less about glucose levels, and she feels more confident that she will lead a long, healthy, happy life.

At a conference focused on technology and treatments, it was great to see such an interest in psychological aspects. Renza Scibilia [19] and Chris Aldred (aka ‘Grumpy Pumper [20]’) presented on the language we use around diabetes complications [21]. They recommended using respectful language and avoiding scare tactics. Dr Claire Reidy [22] presented on peer support, indicating that it can be easy to access and provide great support, but there can also be cyberbullying and misinformation. Dr Mette Due-Christensen [23] presented on the psychological challenges when type 1 diabetes is diagnosed in adulthood. She stressed the importance of asking how people with diabetes are feeling and providing emotional support [24]. Prof Frank Snoek [25] shared that fear of hypoglycaemia is pervasive, it should be monitored and discussed in routine clinical care, and that more research into effective treatment of fear of hypoglycaemia is needed. Prof Frans Pouwer [26] spoke about the impact of hypoglycaemia on outcomes reported by people with diabetes. He spoke about the challenges [27] of hypoglycaemia, a recent review [28] (from the ACBRD), and the psychological research underway in the European HypoResolve [29] program. Alon Liberman [30] presented on the human factor in diabetes technology, and how improving hope and a person’s sense of empowerment is important and can improve diabetes outcomes.

Two of the ACBRD’s PhD candidates also presented their research at the ATTD. Jasmine Schipp presented a poster [33] on some of the preliminary findings from interviews with Australian adults using a DIY system to manage their diabetes. You can watch a 1-minute video of Jasmine presenting her poster here [34]. Shaira Baptista presented a poster [35] on the acceptability of a ‘virtual agent’ in an app providing diabetes self-management education and support.

To read more about open-source artificial pancreas systems, read our blog [5].