I Used Loop to Hack My Insulin Pump to Better Control My Blood Sugar Levels
Loop is a DIY automated insulin delivery system with more customization and features than FDA-approved systems on the market.
Justin EastzerFormer Senior Video Producer
Prior to CNET, Justin_tech ran his own YouTube channel with a focus on the smart home and lighting, VR/AR, wearables and more. Diabetes tech became a new passion after his type 1 diagnosis in May 2021. If you enjoy terrible puns and emerging tech, then you'll enjoy his tech-ventures.
ExpertiseFive years of tech YouTube-ing and two years of experience with diabetes wearable tech, which is used daily to foster better relationships with technology.Credentials
Audience-building across multiple social networks, including over 5 million subscribers for America's Got Talent and a niche diabetes tech education and community building platform
I hacked my insulin pump for more control over my blood sugar levels, and I have no plans to use an approved system anytime soon. Before I get into that, here's some background on me.
In May 2021 I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 30. This came as a huge shock with many life changes. I began using insulin, started wearing a continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, to track my blood sugar levels and got an insulin pump that I wear at all times. Soon after, I heard about an experimental open-source application called Loop that offers more flexibility and control over blood sugar levels, but it wasn't yet cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Loop was built by a community of hackers known as #WeAreNotWaiting and released in 2016. The system regulates blood sugar levels using CGM readings and an insulin pump paired with a sophisticated algorithm running on an iPhone. The connection between these devices creates what's called a "closed loop system." Other closed loop systems approved by the FDA exist, but they don't offer as much customization and flexibility.
With Loop, I can control my insulin pump with an iPhone and Apple Watch, which isn't possible on other systems. I can log carb entries based on absorption time of different foods, and the app will even estimate my actual carb intake based on its algorithm and the movement of my blood sugar levels. Loop also allows for customizable temporary overrides, which adjust my target blood sugar range and insulin needs during certain activities, such as working out or drinking alcohol.
Though Loop runs on an iPhone, it can't be downloaded from the Apple App Store. (Note: Apple recommends against this "sideloading" of apps.) I had to download files and build Loop myself using an Apple Developer account and Xcode on a Mac. As a tech-savvy person, I didn't have any trouble setting up Loop, but for others it may be a more difficult task. Luckily, that could soon change.
The nonprofit organization Tidepool wants to make Loop easily accessible to anyone who needs it. In January 2021, Tidepool submitted Loop to the FDA for clearance as what the agency calls an interoperable automated glycemic controller, an app that can be downloaded on the app store and be used with any pump. All pumps right now use their own proprietary software, but with Tidepool Loop, users would get to choose their own system.
We reached out to the FDA for comment and are awaiting a response.
Loop currently works with the Omnipod Eros and older Medtronic insulin pumps, with support for the Omnipod Dash pump arriving in an upcoming app release. Supported CGMs include the Dexcom G4, G5 and G6, as well as Medtronic sensors connected to Loop-compatible Medtronic pumps.
Find out more about Loop's unique features and its origins by watching the video at the top of the article. And as a reminder, this is a DIY application that's not cleared by the FDA. Until it is, Loop will remain an "at your own risk" product. You can learn more about Loop here.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.