Human Medical Tools Might Help Foal Live with Diabetes

High-tech medical devices normally reserved for humans might prove helpful in managing the health of Justin Credible, the colt with the first documented case of type-1 diabetes.

Under the guidance of their treating veterinarian, owners David and Monica Hufana of Carlisle, Ky., are working with two companies--Insulet and DexCom--to develop a system that would allow them to continuously monitor their colt's glucose levels and deliver insulin.

Insulet would supply the OmniPod, a wireless insulin pump about half the size of an egg, used by people with diabetes. The OmniPod is filled with insulin and attached to the skin with an adhesive. It delivers insulin subcutaneously through a Teflon catheter as needed by the patient. The OmniPod only needs to be replaced every three days, which means the Hufanas wouldn't have to give an insulin injection every eight hours as they're doing currently.

Diabetic colt

Justin Credible, a Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse, was born with type-1 diabetes.

As Justin Credible has gotten bigger, it has become more difficult to take blood to test sugar levels every four hours. To address this, the Hufanas hope to use a continuous glucose monitoring system from DexCom. This will take minute-by-minute glucose level readings to ensure the OmniPod is set to deliver an accurate amount of insulin. The glucose monitoring system has a sensor that goes under the skin and then a transmitter wirelessly delivers the readings to a hand-held receiver.

There is the worry that these tools might not stand up to the rigors of "horseplay."

"The biggest concern is keeping the devices on the horse, it's never been tried in a clinical setting," said attending veterinarian Nathan Slovis, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky. "There's no case history (in horses), so I will have to start going through human case data."

Robert Campbell, vice president of clinical services and research at Insulet, said he remains optimistic "that something can be worked out to make managing Justin Credible easier for everyone involved."

Campbell said the OmniPod has been used successfully by professional football players and Ironman triathletes, so it has already been "used in some unique and challenging conditions."

Read more about this case.  

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Liz Brown

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