Tag Archives: metabolism

QS17 Preview: Mental & Metabolic Dashboard

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Dr. Tara Thiagarajan: “I’ve created a dashboard to illustrate the inter-relatedness of my mental and metabolic machinery .”

While the terms ”dashboard” and ”machinery” may bring to mind the tidy and separable systems operating within a car, it’s the crossed wires of human neurophysiology that will be the subject of this conference preview. Though western medicine tends to treat physiological systems (cognition, digestion, hormonal axes) as disparate, centuries of wisdom and mounting scientific data suggest a great depth of inter-relatedness across physiological systems. Ancient thinkers like Plutarch, Ptolemy and Boethius have gone as far as to describe the interactions between human systems as musical chords – harmonious when healthy, dissonant when ill:

“Whoever penetrates into his own self perceives human music. For what unites the incorporeal nature of reason with the body if not a certain harmony and, as it were, a careful tuning of low and high pitches as though producing one consonance” – Boethius, Fundamentals of Music

At QS17, only a few weeks away, Tara will bring her background in math and neuroscience to show us how she has captured her ‘human music‘ by looking at interactions between her sleep, diet, water intake, and brain activity. Tara is the founder of Sapien Labs, which seeks to use EEG technology in a broad and more accessible context to generate massive data sets of human brain activity. She’s one of many excellent speakers presenting novel connections in personal data – check out our other participants and join us there!

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Measuring Your Metabolism: Breezing at QS15

One June 18-20 we’re hosting ourQS15 Conference and Expo and we’re delighted that so many great toolmakers will be joining us to show off their devices, apps, and services. We’ve  asked each of our toolmakers to give us a bit more background information about their company and what they’re excited about. If you’d like to meet these innovative companies and the amazing people behind them then make sure to register today!

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1. How do you describe Breezing?
Breezing is a mobile metabolic tracker that affordably, easily, and accurately measures resting metabolic rate through indirect calorimetry, a gold-standard method for weight management. The tracker syncs wirelessly with a mobile app, so users can track metabolic rate anytime, anywhere. It tells them the calorie intake and exercise plan they need to maintain, lose, or gain weight based on their unique resting metabolic rate.

2. What’s the backstory? How did you get started?
In 2012, we had the idea to miniaturize metabolic carts for assessment of resting metabolic rate. A researcher performing a human physical performance study at Arizona State University showed us one of the instruments at her lab. She was complaining about the cost ($35,000) and size (old desktop PC + printer), as well as the difficulty of operating it. The instrument was preventing her from moving on to more exciting studies for field-testing and free-living conditions. We decided to take on the challenge, and from there we developed the Breezing metabolic tracker.

In 2013, we launched an Indiegogo campaign to bring the Breezing metabolic tracker to early adopters. The campaign successfully raised funds to manufacture the first batch, and we distributed ~165 Breezing trackers and ~3,000 metabolic measurements around the world. Thanks to our Indiegogo users, we were able to improve the Breezing user interface, which later allowed us to validate the tracker with more than 300 measurements, using the Gold Standard method for indirect calorimetry. Today, the device has accuracy comparable to metabolic carts in the market at a fraction of the traditional cost, time, and size.

3. What impact has it had? What have you heard from users?
We have helped users understand their metabolic rate, the changes in their bodies, and their calorie intake needs. Our user base includes individuals who are clinically overweight/obese, those who have metabolic problems or hypothyroidism, and most recently, pregnant women. We’ve also helped people with fitness needs, specifically sports training and athletic activity.

In the meantime, we’ve promoted education efforts to demonstrate the need for measuring resting metabolic rate measurement in order to fully manage calorie intake balance and weight.

Our users have shared with us their success stories, and with their permission, we’ve featured some of these stories in our videos and blog. What’s most satisfying for us is knowing that we’ve finally brought metabolic rate measurements to the masses and that we’ve really helped people.

4. What are you doing next? How do you see it evolving?
We believe in creating better access to metabolic rate tracking, so everyone can measure and track their metabolic rate and caloric needs as easily as if they were measuring their blood pressure or their glucose levels at home.

5. How can people find out more about you?
Visit www.breezing.com , or stop by our booth at the Quantified Self Expo. We look forward to meeting you. We’d be happy to test your resting metabolic rate! Just be ready and prepared. Here the measurement conditions you need to meet.

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Do It Yourself Diabetes

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Dana Lewis and Scott Leibrand are the creators of the amazing “Do-It-Yourself-Pancreas-System,” also known by #DIYPS. We had a few question for them.

Ernesto: Why build your own pancreas?

IMG_3561Dana: I’ve had Type 1 diabetes for about 12 years. I use an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), but the devices are separate. They don’t talk to each other. I have to look at the data from the CGM and then make decisions about my insulin. I have to make about 300 decisions per day on average. It’s really fatiguing. So we created some algorithms that took my blood glucose data, the amount of insulin that I’ve given myself, and the amount of carbohydrates that I’ve decided that I’ve eaten, and ran them over and over again to give me a prediction of what my blood sugar was going to be and whether I need to take any action. Instead of having to constantly do the math myself, our system will push an alert to my phone or watch.

Ernesto: Does it dose you automatically?

Dana: Originally no, but more recently we’ve built a full closed loop version of #DIYPS, that is essentially an artificial pancreas, that talks to my pump and adjusts to give me a little more or a little less insulin.

Ernesto: Who writes the code?

Scott: I’m doing all the coding. I’m sure Dana could, but she has a lot going on and designs the algorithms. My title is Chief Spaghetti-Coder. This is the bleeding edge. It doesn’t need to be elegant code.

Ernesto: What have you learned from building your own pancreas?

Dana: The beauty of a CGM is that it gives you a data point every five minutes. Over the past year I’ve produced more than 130,000 data points of blood sugar levels alone. That gives me an incredible picture of what’s happening. With a traditional meter, it’s rare to find somebody who tests up to even 10 times a day. And the standard use for an insulin pump is very much “set it and forget it.” The #DIYPS allows me to customize without having to constantly adjust my insulin pump manually, and that frees me up to live my life, work, and do whatever it is that I want to do.

A visualization of Dana’s Data over the first year of the #DIYPS system.

A visualization of Dana’s Data over the first year of the #DIYPS system.

Ernesto: How did this project start?

Dana: We first started building the system just to make the alarms on the device louder, to wake me up because I would sleep through them. The device manufacturers didn’t seem to have a solution. Then we started looking at getting the data onto a computer so Scott would be able to view it. At the time, we had recently started dating, and he lives 20 miles away. I wanted him to be able to see what my blood glucose level was, so if it was low, he could text me; and if I didn’t respond, he could call 911. But we didn’t have a way to get the data off of the device.

Scott: The key moment was when we saw a tweet from John Costik, who was working on the Nightscout Project. Nightscout is open source code that helps people transmit their CGM data to other devices. I tweeted John right away: “Hey it would be awesome if we could get access to this code.” That’s really where it started. And along the way the whole process has been extremely public. We’ve been tweeting, blogging, and making everything we’ve been doing completely visible.

Ernesto: I’ve seen you tweet using the hashtag #wearenotwaiting. What does that mean?

Dana: #WeAreNotWaiting is a hashtag that was coined at a conference hosted by an online diabetes advocacy and information sharing community called DiabetesMine.com. For me it means that we’re not waiting for traditional device manufacturers to come out with the product. In three to ten years there’ll be devices like our artificial pancreas systems out in the market, being sold by companies approved by the FDA. I need to be alive when that system gets out in the market in, perhaps, five years.

I need to be alive when a cure becomes available.

Scott: Right about the time that we started working on #DIYPS, the Nightscout Project started to grow really quickly. There are now over 10,000 people in the CGM in the Cloud group. Over 2,000 people are using Nightscout to view their own or their loved ones’ blood sugar levels remotely on phones, watches, and other devices. This is real stuff that’s making a real difference in the world. And that’s only going to accelerate as more people do more interesting things like this closed loop that we’ve just done.

Ernesto: You’ve written about “data as free speech.” What do you mean? How can data be speech?

Dana: People often don’t understand why its legal for us to ‘hack’ a CGM and an insulin pump. (Note that hacking isn’t a negative thing; we’re just sharing the data across devices!) They assume that because all my DIY gadgets are not FDA-approved to use them the way I’m using them is somehow against the rules. But I can treat my own body, my own diabetes, the way I want to. And if I share my data, that’s obviously a kind of speech. But if we decide to share our code? I think the FDA sees this as a gray area. We very much want to continue our conversations with regulators.

Ernesto: Where do you see your project going?

Dana: I feel that every time I answer this question my answer changes, because my understanding of its potential is constantly changing. I never would have thought that any of what we’ve done was possible. Right now one of our goals is to make sure that the knowledge we gained about diabetes through our work with #DIYPS is adopted by clinicians, and that patients have access to this new information for treating diabetes. We’re also taking #DIYPS to a new level with #OpenAPS, an open and transparent effort to make safe and effective basic Artificial Pancreas System (APS) technology widely available to more quickly improve and save as many lives as possible and reduce the burden of Type 1 diabetes.

Dana with the #OpenAPS system.

Dana with the #OpenAPS system.

Scott: A few of months ago, at a conference convened by the advocacy group DiabetesMine, we got up and talked about our project, and I said: “I’m putting a stake in the ground that we’re going to make a closed loop artificial pancreas by August 1st, which is the date we’re getting married.” Everybody applauded and thought that was awesome. Then we went home. And we had it done in two weeks.

Dana: For anybody who wants to get involved in this, we would love to talk to you. There are so many people with diabetes and there is so much data that drives the management of this disease.

But there’s not a lot of awareness of how many diseases, including diabetes, could have their care revolutionized just by having better access to data.

That’s the thread of Quantified Self that I’m most interested in. The diabetes community happens to be one of the first to take advantage of what’s possible.

Dana tweeted her blood glucose data during this interview.

We invite you to share your data access stories, and this Access Conversation with the #qsaccess hashtag and follow along here in our Access Channel quantifiedself.com and @quantifiedself.

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QS | Public Health Symposium: Doug Kanter’s Healthiest Year

We’ve featured the work of our friend and QS community member, Doug Kanter, many times here on the Quantified Self website and we were excited to have him participate in our Quantified Self Public Health Symposium. Doug is both a toolmaker and self-tracker, focusing primarily on using his experience with tracking his diabetes-related data to inform new tools and methods. In this talk, Doug explains what he learned from diving headfirst into a year-long project of tracking and visualizing all of the data he could gather about his diabetes self-management, his diet and activity, and other important factors. Beyond the wonderful visualizations he shared, Doug helped highlight something many patients and self-trackers are struggling with, the inability to access data easily and the lack of interoperability among data services and devices. We invite you to watch Doug’s wonderful talk below.

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