In Brief
Health care startup Virta is proposing a new type of treatment for type 2 diabetes, which revolves around personalized nutrition and constant contact with a medical professional.

Down with Diabetes

More than 29 million people suffer from diabetes in the United States alone. Now, a new healthcare startup called Virta claims that it can stamp out the condition for good — and what’s more, it plans to do so using little more than a sensible diet plan and a smartphone app.

Virta puts its patients on a nutrition plan that cuts out sugar and bad carbohydrates. To make sure that they can stick to this diet safely, they’re kept in constant contact with a trained physician, exchanging text messages and engaging in video calls as often as every day.

Each patient’s plan is highly individualized, with everything from their food intake, to their recommended activity levels, to their medication being tailored to their specific situation. Preliminary test have been very promising, with a recent trial of 262 people allowing 87 percent of participants to stop using insulin completely or at least reduce their dosage.

Personal Care

Virta founder Sami Inkinen had good reason to get into diabetes care. In 2007, he had just started competing in Ironman triathlon events, when he was told that he was pre-diabetic.

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“I started reading research and that’s what kind of led me to meet my scientific co-founders,” said Inkinen in a recent interview with Tech Crunch. “The bottom line, what these guys had shown is that there is a way to nutritionally reverse type 2 diabetes without starving you to death. They had published all these papers. I was like this is nuts. This is 30 years-old science.”

Diabetes has a huge impact on the lives of people affected, not least when they’re forced to administer their own insulin injections. Fortunately, researchers are finding ways to avoid this process, from CRISPR skin grafts to cell implants, to a smartphone app.