Verizon Wireless Supports Massachusetts' Roche Diagnostics In Clinical Trial Of Diabetnet

WOBURN, MA — Verizon Wireless, the nation's leading wireless carrier, today announced its involvement in an innovative clinical trial hosted by MIT Media Laboratory, with support from Roche Diagnostics, Boston-based Joslin Diabetes Clinic, and Harvard University Medical School student Vikram Sheel Kumar, to test DiaBetNet.

Conceived and designed by Mr. Kumar and his faculty advisor, Professor Alex Pentland of the MIT Media Laboratory, DiaBetNet is a program in which children diagnosed with Type I diabetes use handheld computers and specially designed software enabled with wireless modems in a competition with themselves and other patients to guess glucose levels. The goal of DiaBetNet is to inspire children to follow proper medical procedures by reinforcing both a sense of community, as well as the desire to win.

Individuals with Type I diabetes lack the insulin needed to help cells take in glucose from the bloodstream. Stress, a lack of insulin, or a large meal can lead to an excess of sugar in their blood, while heavy exercise after an insulin injection or missing a meal can result in low blood sugar. Dangerous medical complications can result from either situation. To keep Type I diabetes properly regulated, individuals with diabetes must check their glucose levels several times a day by analyzing a drop of blood from a finger prick so they can set their insulin dosage accurately. It is often tempting for a child to skip the test and hope the standard dose will do, since continuous finger pricks can cause discomfort. DiaBetNet is designed not only to encourage children to check their glucose levels often, but also teach them how food and exercise affect glucose levels, and how to better regulate their daily activities.

"One of our hopes is to create such a solid system of medical program management that patients have the ability to more effectively manage their diabetes and reduce hospital stays through the use of wireless technology," said DiaBetNet creator, Vikram Kumar. "If patients can create a sense of community on their own, they will likely assist and support others within the community to maintain proper medical practices away from a doctor's office."

Wireless Plays a Role in the Field of Medical Research—The Trial

DiaBetNet, which was pilot tested by more than 40 patients throughout New England, was done in close conjunction with Boston-based Joslin Diabetes Clinic and supported by Roche Diagnostics (Indianapolis, IN). The children recruited for the trial, ages 7-18, were armed with an Accu-Chek Active™ blood glucose meter and wireless modem plugged into a handheld computer or Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). The DiaBetNet and Accu-Chek Pocket Compass™ Software were installed onto the PDA for the patients to use. When a patient used the unit, a drop of blood was tested for glucose by the Accu-Chek Active Meter, which then "beamed" data through infrared technology to the Accu-Chek Pocket Compass Software on the PDA. The wireless modem sent the blood glucose data and the DiaBetNet game results to a computer at Media Lab via Verizon Wireless' data network.

Verizon Wireless' data network provides a secure and economical way for patients to access the Internet using a mobile device such as PDA, Palm or handheld computer. Therefore, patients within the trial can connect from virtually anywhere (the beach, the amusement park or school) without having to hunt for a compatible phone jack when they need to report their daily glucose levels and place their guesses into competition.

"Over the years, new applications using wireless have been uncovered and tested that have dramatically changed the way people communicate with others," said Bob Stott, regional president for Verizon Wireless. "The work being done with DiaBetNet is an innovative approach using wireless to change peoples lives. We couldn't be more thrilled to be playing a role in this research trial."

The DiaBetNet trial began in the summer of 2002 with a total of 40 patients. While final results and analysis from the trial are still being compiled, the goal of the study was to determine whether DiaBetNet could motivate greater testing frequency. Further, the trial was researching statistical machine learning techniques in support of a theory that intelligent machines can be built to serve as a tutor, to teach patients to understand and manage diabetes.

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