Ice cream for everyone
Reading time: 7 minutes
About a year ago, Zander Brown was diagnosed with diabetes. After the initial period of shock, the family from Oxford, Michigan, USA, is again living an almost normal life. They have a special nine-year-old to thank for this — as well as a bit of help from Packaging Technology division at Bosch.
It’s not the playoffs, but both players are giving it their all. Zander, in the blue shirt, dribbles across the asphalt, jumps and lobs the ball at the basket. “Dunk it!” his best friend Jason shouts. The ball swishes through the net, high-fives are exchanged, and Jason puts his arm around his friend. “I'm living a normal life,” Zander says later, “...with just a little extra stuff...”. Zander has type I diabetes — a potentially life-threatening disease. In people with this metabolic disorder, the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin, which can sometimes have serious consequences. This hormone is necessary for the body’s cells to absorb energy in the form of sugar, and thus keep glucose levels stable. In the absence of insulin, too much sugar collects in the blood, and this eventually causes major damage to the blood vessels, nerves, and kidneys. Too low a blood-sugar level is dangerous as well, however: patients may lose consciousness and fall into a coma in a matter of only a few hours. Type I diabetes has nothing to do with poor nutrition or other lifestyle habits, science tells us today. It is usually caused by an autoimmune disorder and there is still no cure for it.
Just a little pinch
But back to Pine Valley Court, after the basketball game. Zander's grandma lives only a few blocks away and helps Zander’s parents look after their three children every day. She gives in to the boys’ pleadings: there’s ice cream for everyone. Zander knows what he has to do before they drive over to the ice cream parlor. He stands at the kitchen table with his mother and unzips a small, black case. Without blinking, he sticks a tiny needle into his finger and smears a drop of blood on a test strip.
“How much?” Debby Brown asks. “255,” Zander reads from the tester’s digital display. That’s currently how many milligrams of glucose his blood contains per deciliter. According to his doctor, 150 would be ideal. “And what does that mean?” Zander thinks for a second: “Four units.” One to lower his level and three for the soft-serve ice cream he is about to eat. He has to give his body insulin now so that he can stay balanced throughout the afternoon.
Revolutionary insulin pen
From her own experience, Zander’s grandmother, Penny, knows the various methods for taking insulin. “For decades, I gave myself insulin shots,” she explains. “Filling the syringe is tedious and sticking the needle into yourself is not exactly pleasant. Not to mention the looks you get for fiddling around with a syringe in public.” Zander doesn’t have a syringe. He carries a small, red object that looks like a writing instrument — an insulin pen, filled on a Bosch packaging machine. The boy turns a dial until the number 4 appears. A quick jab in the upper arm and he’s done. The entire procedure lasts barely three minutes, and the ice cream taxi is on its way.
Insulin in glass vials — quality is the top priority
Human medicine containing insulin is subject to the highest quality and safety standards to keep risks for users to a minimum. The sterility of the production process is particularly important, which is why most of the sections of the packaging machine lines from Bosch are fitted with isolators.
These are sterile small chambers arranged along the length of the machine, to which operators have access through installed gloves only. In addition, the vials are transported through the machine with the help of special clip holders to avoid scratching the glass or releasing particles. The vials must also be free of air, since this could cause a deviation from the dose set by the patient. As a result, the vials are only filled to 90 percent at first. For the final 10 percent, a laser sensor is used that scans the surface of the vial neck. As soon as the surface of the liquid reaches the aperture, the machine stops the filling process. This also prevents spills of surplus insulin while making the filling process more economical and cleaner. The process ends with a further thorough check for quality and safety after the vial is sealed: as many as ten camera systems test the vials, including checks for scratches on the glass, particles in the liquid, and properly fitted caps.
When Zander was diagnosed, a normal life seemed far away for him. Thanks to packaging technology from Bosch, high-quality insulin is always at his disposal. Zander can even enjoy ice cream again.