What is the future of open-source artificial pancreas systems in the management of type 1 diabetes?

Our Centre’s research explored the views of Australian adults with type 1 diabetes using open-source technologies

By Dr Roslyn Le Gautier

Historically, commercial companies have developed, built, and supplied advanced diabetes devices. These include insulin pumps and glucose monitoring systems. However, industry needs to prove that the systems are safe and effective. Gaining regulatory approval is a complex process. This means there is often a long wait before devices can be used in their daily lives.

More and more people with type 1 diabetes are unwilling to wait for commercial solutions. Instead, they turn to open-source artificial pancreas systems (APS). Open-source means it is shared freely in the community. People with type 1 diabetes are using open-source software with existing hardware to automate insulin delivery. As open-source is not regulated, people must build their own systems for personal use. In this way, they are responsible only for their own safety.

People who build and use open-source APS report that the benefits far outweigh the risks. But, as commercial systems become more available, will people still choose to use open-source APS?

To find out, Jasmine Schipp and colleagues asked 23 Australian adults with type 1 diabetes who are using open-source APS to share their thoughts. Here’s what they said:

      • Open-source systems give them choice. For example, they can use an insulin pump from one company and a continuous glucose monitoring system from another.
      • They value being able to customise their system. For example, they like setting their own glucose targets. This gives them more personal control in how they manage their diabetes.
      • The user-driven approach means that solutions are designed to meet the needs of the diabetes community.
      • Open-source systems will always evolve faster than commercial devices. This is because they do not engage in regulatory approval processes.
      • The ‘24/7’ emotional and social support provided by the diabetes online community is more helpful than the support offered by commercial companies.
      • Overall, there will always be a place for open-source APS solutions in diabetes management.

Moving forward, participants appreciate the role of commercial companies. However, they believe that companies need to work with, listen to, and learn from the open-source APS community. This will better serve the needs of people with diabetes. As one participant expressed, ‘we’re all on the same team’.

If you enjoyed reading this, check out our other blogs on type 1 diabetes and technology.


Reference: Schipp J, Skinner TC, Holloway EE, Scibilia R, Langstrup H, Speight J, Hendrieckx C. “We’re all on the same team”. Perspectives on the future of artificial pancreas systems by adults in Australia with type 1 diabetes using open-source technologies: a qualitative study. Diabetic Medicine, 2022, 5:e14708

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