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Apple has a secret team of researchers trying to solve one of medicine’s biggest challenges


A fascinating new report from CNBC claims that Apple has a secret team of scientists, researchers, and biomedical engineers trying to develop a way to noninvasive measure a user’s glucose levels. As it stands now, the only way for a diabetic to measure his or her glucose levels is to draw blood from a finger or to use an implanted sensor linked up to an external device. That said, if Apple is able to succeed where dozens of biotech firms have previously failed, it would mark one of the more significant medical breakthroughs of our time.

According to the report, Apple’s research initiative in this area has been ongoing for five years. Indeed, when Apple began assembling a team to develop the first incarnation of the Apple Watch, it hired a number of individuals with broad and deep experience in the realm of non-invasive blood glucose research.

One person said about 30 people were working in this group as of a year ago. But speculation has been flying around since the company snapped up about a dozen biomedical experts from companies like Vital Connect, Masimo Corp, Sano, Medtronic, and C8 Medisensors. Some of these people joined the secretive team dedicated to glucose, sources said, while others are on Apple Watch team.

One of the people said that Apple is developing optical sensors, which involves shining a light through the skin to measure indications of glucose.

While there’s no doubt Apple is working on and researching such advanced technologies, the prospects of Apple actually succeeding is, by all accounts, extremely low. Over the past many years, innumerable biotech companies have tried to develop sensors and technologies capable of noninvasively monitoring blood glucose levels, and while some companies have seen some extremely mild success, there is no body of evidence to suggest that a marketable solution is right around the corner or even inevitable.

I’d love to be proven wrong, but it’s hard to ignore the words of John L. Smith — one of the world’s preeminent experts on non-invasive glucose measuring technologies — who wrote the following back in 2013:

… I’m sad to say that no technology has yet reached the marketplace, or for that matter, been reliably reported as actually succeeding in laboratory or clinical testing. I have personally looked at perhaps another two dozen technologies (but can’t discuss many of these newer ones, due to confidentiality agreements), been intrigued by a few and disappointed in most others. Some new companies have joined the quest, and many others have reached the end of their participation.

While it’s possible for Apple to succeed where others have fallen short, I believe that it’s far-fetched to expect Apple to come up with a medical breakthrough in the near future, let alone a miniaturized solution that could fit on a wearable device as compact as the Apple Watch.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.

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