Health & Wellbeing

Glucose-monitoring patch could mean no more finger-pricking for diabetics

Glucose-monitoring patch could...
The patch incorporates an array of miniature sensors
The patch incorporates an array of miniature sensors
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The graphene-based device is worn against the skin without piercing its surface
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The graphene-based device is worn against the skin without piercing its surface
The patch incorporates an array of miniature sensors
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The patch incorporates an array of miniature sensors

For millions of diabetics, performing finger-prick blood tests to monitor blood glucose levels is an unpleasant part of daily life. If a new glucose-monitoring adhesive skin patch reaches commercialization, however, such jabs may become a thing of the past.

Developed by scientists at the University of Bath in the UK, the graphene-based device is worn against the skin without piercing its surface. It incorporates an array of miniature sensors, which utilize a small electric current to draw glucose out from the interstitial fluid that's located between cells within the body-hair follicles – each sensor covers an individual follicle.

The extracted glucose collects in tiny reservoirs, where it's measured. This results in accurate blood glucose readings, which can be taken as often as once every 10 to 15 minutes over a period of several hours. It is hoped that once commercialized, the inexpensive disposable device could wirelessly transmit those readings to an app on the user's smartphone, providing alerts when necessary.

The graphene-based device is worn against the skin without piercing its surface
The graphene-based device is worn against the skin without piercing its surface

"A non-invasive – that is, needle-less – method to monitor blood sugar has proven a difficult goal to attain," says Bath's Prof. Richard Guy. "The closest that has been achieved has required either at least a single-point calibration with a classic 'finger-stick,' or the implantation of a pre-calibrated sensor via a single needle insertion. The monitor developed at Bath promises a truly calibration-free approach."

In lab tests, the patch has been successfully used to monitor fluctuating blood glucose levels both in healthy human volunteers, and on pig skin with glucose levels representing the range seen in human diabetics. The scientists are now planning on optimizing the number of sensors in the patch, demonstrating its functionality over a 24-hour wear period, and performing clinical trials.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Source: University of Bath via EurekAlert

5 comments
Tom Lee Mullins
As a diabetic, I look forward to not having to prick my finger to check my blood sugar level.
JamesDemello
Would be great if they could use this new tech for measuring other blood chemicals like Uric Acid for gout sufferers. Then we could find out the effectiveness of home remedies.
TJG
@JamesDemello: Keep in mind, this device is actually measuring glucose in the interstitial fluid and calculating/inferring the glucose level in the blood. This is how continuous glucose monitors have worked for about the last 15 years. I don't know if other blood components are expressed in the interstitial fluid, or what the relation is between that level and blood levels. Pre CGM, there was a device that was supposed to alert you of a low glucose overnight. It used electrical stimulation to extract fluid, and ended up irritating the skin. Maybe these smaller sensors won't have that problem. For now, I'll stick with my DexCom G5. I still have to test every 12 hrs to calibrate, but the G6 will not need ongoing calibration.
WilliamSager
I doubt this will be cheap. I also doubt it will stand up to day to day use. But it's ability to monitor someone continuously might be handy in a hospital setting.
Jamie Nichols
There's already sensors that allow you to read your glucose levels without finger sticks. Freestyle Libre sticks to the back of your arm (it does insert a small filament that goes into your skin) and stays there for 10 days and uploads the blood sugar readings to an external reader. Granted that it's more invasive than a patch on your skin, it's inaccurate to claim that the patch is the first device to get rid of finger-sticks.