Hacking Diabetes: A Network of Amateur Programmers is Transforming the Illness With a DIY App

Garfinkel, Jonathan
The Walrus

Diabetes is a tricky disease, both to live with and to understand. It all comes down to the pancreas: in normal circumstances, the organ produces insulin, a hormone that controls blood glucose. Diabetics either can’t produce enough insulin (which causes the more manageable type-two diabetes) or any at all (type one), so our bodies can’t properly deal with the sugar we consume. When blood-glucose levels drop too low or surge too high, it can lead to serious health complications. One hundred years ago, children all around the world would slip into comas and die because of type-one diabetes. Then came Frederick Banting, who led the team that, working out of a University of Toronto lab in 1921, discovered insulin. He extracted insulin from animals and injected it into terminal comatose patients. Like little Lazaruses, the children came back to life. Banting’s work has since been hailed as one of the great medical achievements of the twentieth century and has allowed type-one diabetics—myself included—the opportunity to live full, relatively normal lives.