A Game-Changing Diabetes Management Sensor for Adolescents and Teens — with Spark Fund Awardee Professor Leanne Chukoskie

Mar 7, 2024 | Available Tech, Recognition, Spark Fund

Leanne ChukoskieLiving with diabetes can be a daily challenge, especially for adolescents and young adults navigating the tumultuous waters of increased independence and self-management. Teens and college students’ choices and lifestyles can put them at higher risk of poor disease management and health outcomes.

After experiencing this struggle when her adolescent son was unexpectedly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Northeastern professor Leanne Chukoskie jumped into action to transform the landscape of diabetes care for this vulnerable population using smart technologies.

Her dynamic interdisciplinary team at the Rehabilitation Games – Extended Reality (ReGame-XR) Laboratory is developing a comprehensive app-based tool that empowers young individuals to manage their diabetes better while providing invaluable support to their families.

This work has earned them selection as one of the Fall 2023 Spark Fund awardees.

Revolutionizing Diabetes Management with Smart Technology

The team is creating a user-friendly diabetes management app that seamlessly integrates data from wearable sensors, including continuous glucose monitors, heart rate monitors, sleep trackers, smartwatches, and more. By harnessing this data, the app offers personalized predictions of glucose variability, empowering users to make informed decisions about their health in real time.

To accommodate the unique needs and motivations of younger users, the team is considering how to incorporate gamification elements into the app, transforming routine tasks like food logging and insulin administration into engaging activities. They aim to foster positive behavioral changes and enhance adherence to treatment regimens by making mundane or annoying activities more enjoyable and rewarding.

However, the team is also mindful not to make the app too much of a game, as they want it to be broadly helpful to many ages. For example, it is essential to the group that the app is not a game targeted at very young kids, as it would be useless and unappealing to teens and young adults.

Crucially, the app also serves as a bridge between adolescents and their parents, addressing the pressing need for communication and accountability within families affected by diabetes. Through real-time updates and feedback mechanisms, parents are kept informed of their child’s progress, providing reassurance and encouragement without resorting to intrusive monitoring. This helps set parents at ease while allowing the kids more space and freedom to be more independent.

With a diverse team comprising students in human movement and rehab sciences, nursing, software engineering, and data analytics, the collaboration is a testament to the power of interdisciplinary collaboration at Northeastern.

“It’s a wonderful collaboration,” says Chukoskie, “because there’s so much valuable information exchange between these students with separate skill sets. Our student involvement on this project has been key.”

Commercialization with the CRI

With the help of the CRI, the team is seeking multiple industry partners, including the companies behind wearables platforms, health sensor devices, and health and wellness promotions. While many of these companies have historically been focused on sports fitness in adults, there is a growing interest in applying technologies to pediatrics and diabetes management.

By leveraging existing platforms and engaging with key industry partners, the team aims to ensure widespread accessibility and adoption of their innovation. The team strives to become an indispensable resource that families affected by diabetes can turn to navigate the complexities of the condition with confidence and ease.

“Whether your child is newly diagnosed, you’re newly diagnosed yourself, or your child was diagnosed when they were younger and are now grown and looking to be more independent — we hope our work can be a navigation tool for families,” says Chukoskie. “I’d like to see the health system sharing this tool with them in a critical time in their care.”

Awards & Funding

Northeastern CRI’s Spark Fund Award partly funds this technology, as the team was selected as one of the Fall 2023 Spark Fund awardees.

The Spark Fund application and feedback process has been invaluable in helping the team to iterate, refine, and expand their prototype to better fit the needs of their target patient population and the industry. It also helped connect them with others at the university who had unique skills and insights to contribute.

“I feel so fortunate to be at Northeastern because there’s such an amazing community of researchers here who are already offering their ideas,” says Chukoskie.

For example, during this process, the team recently connected with Northeastern Professor Laura Forlano, who lives with Type 1 diabetes and wrote a book, Cyborg, about her experience relying on sensors and tools. Forlano is also connected with designers living with Type 1, so Chukoskie’s team plans to pitch their idea to this group to get feedback on her technology from the community directly.

Learn More

Learn more about Chukoskie’s research and the other Spark Fund Award grantees here.

Written by Elizabeth Creason