Cyborg Sunday, Update 12.24.2017: Tattoos, glucometers, RFIDs, and Bloody Fingers

It’s Christmas Eve, and as always, I’m balancing the line between one type of survival and the other. Diabetes, formerly known as The Sugar Disease, was once only treated by fasting. Insulin hadn’t been made into a medication yet, so staving off fatal hyperglycemia meant ingesting an obscene amount of water and not eating for long stretches of time. For me, that means making sure my holiday food choices don’t lead to stubborn high blood sugars–hardly as serious a situation, but still a pain in the ass. Eat too little, and I’ll starve anyway; eat too much, and glucose issues will ruin the next day or two. Really bad choices, or innocent mistakes, will still kill me, no matter how advanced technology gets.

There are those even today who maintain a raw food vegan diet can “cure” type one diabetes. For a while, I believed this to be true, and even went vegan, though not fully raw. My insulin requirements dropped significantly, but I gave this venture up. A strict diet like this isn’t a cure–it’s a treatment. I won’t settle for anything less than a full cure, whether through stem cell work, viral vector transmission, or cybernetics.

In the meanwhile, diabetics like myself are all too familiar with glucometer use. You load a fine gauge needle, a lancet, into a penlet, then pwang, a spring quickly jabs into the the soft bed of your fingertip (print side, of course, not by the nails).

The likelihood of developing an easier, cost-effective solution is unlikely, so long as the pharmaceutical industry is allowed to keep lobbying for their preferred regulation. Diabetes is, after all, a very common and very profitable disease, so why make things easy for us, if we can all coat some company’s bottom line?

The closest we’ve come so far to avoiding fingerpricking altogether is a sensor, i.e. the Freestyle Libre, which is worn like a cross between an insulin pump infusion site and a nicotine  patch. I’m on the leaner/fitter side, so as I frequently tell my doctor, I don’t have the real estate for ANOTHER techy needle-patch-tube device. I’ll still consider it, but for now, I’m holding off.

What would’ve been really cool is if we could get the RFID implant off the ground. Not a lot of money goes into funding that research, but imagine implanting a grain of rice in your forearm, or the soft tissue between your thumb and forefinger, and poof, no more needles! Well, none for your fingers. Cool, huh?

MIT researchers also recently developed biometric tattoo ink that changes colors based on blood composition, but it has no plans for testing and trial. With all due respect, why the hell not?

While I’d love an Outsider-style, color-changing/light-up tattoo that could broadcast, “Hey, bro, eat a banana so you don’t die,” this sort of future seems far off. Whether because of a lack of profitability, lack of research money, or lack of interest, these developments all take a backseat to something like the Libre. An RFID or Biometric tattoo would (ideally) be a one-time investment, while a Continuous Glucose Monitor only lasts 1-2 weeks, providing consistent recurring payments for the duration of, well, the patient’s life.

Will we see a future where someone (*cough, me, cough*) could augment themselves to the point of either not having diabetes, or barely noticing it? Probably. I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.

Chronic illness is a marathon, and every other runner is a grain of sand passing through the sieve of your hourglass. Move too slow, and time will run out.