Laser device may soon non-invasively monitor diabetics' glucose levels

Laser device may soon non-inva...
The GlucoSense device in use – not a finger-lance in sight
The GlucoSense device in use – not a finger-lance in sight
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Prof. Gin Jose with the GlucoSense prototype
Prof. Gin Jose with the GlucoSense prototype
The GlucoSense device in use – not a finger-lance in sight
The GlucoSense device in use – not a finger-lance in sight

In order to monitor their blood glucose levels, diabetics typically have to perform painful and inconvenient finger-prick blood tests – in some cases, several times a day. Using an implantable glucose-monitoring sensor is one alternative, although it must be surgically installed and subsequently removed for replacement. Another option may be on the way, however, in the form of a device that simply shines a laser on the user's finger.

Known as GlucoSense, the system was developed by Prof. Gin Jose and his team at the University of Leeds.

To use it, patients simply place the pad of their finger against a small glass window on the device. A low-powered laser beam is then projected through that window, and into their finger. Some of that light is absorbed by glucose in the bloodstream, and some is reflected back down onto the window.

Ions on the window glass surface subsequently fluorescence in infrared when exposed to that reflected light – the more light that hits them, the longer they glow. By measuring the duration of that fluorescence, a processor in the device is able to determine how much of the original laser light was absorbed by glucose, and can thus deduce the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. The whole process takes less than 30 seconds.

Prof. Gin Jose with the GlucoSense prototype
Prof. Gin Jose with the GlucoSense prototype

After a period of clinical trials and commercial development by spinoff company GlucoSense Diagnostics, it is hoped that two versions of the device will be commercially available – a computer mouse-sized tabletop unit, and a wearable device that measures glucose levels continuously.

"As well as being a replacement for finger-prick testing, this technology opens up the potential for people with diabetes to receive continuous readings, meaning they are instantly alerted when intervention is needed," says Jose. "This will allow people to self-regulate and minimize emergency hospital treatment. This wearable device would then be just one step from a product which sends alerts to smart phones or readings directly to doctors, allowing them to profile how a person is managing their diabetes over time."

Scientists at Princeton University are currently exploring similar technology, while researchers at Google, Fraunhofer and Microsoft are developing non-invasive sensors that measure glucose content in tears or sweat.

Source: University of Leeds

Tom Lee Mullins
They all sound great. I am a diabetic and am tired of pricking my finger. It would save money since I won't have to buy test strips.
While I would prefer to no longer have diabetes, something like this would go a LONG way to me managing it. I HATE the testing. It hurts and as they say must be done multiple times per day. I often do not test just because it hurts.
Truly painless testing?? Heck I would test be willing to put the device on my computer desk and test every time I take a break. I would even buy an extra, see about making it water tight, moving the sensor, and mounting it to my motorcycle for all my trips (maybe next to my cup holder).
As to continuing monitoring, that could open up a lot of jobs to diabetics. Many jobs we are legally not allowed to do because of fear that we may go unconscious while doing them (for example commercial truck driving). This would warn to eat some sugar if it falls low or take insulin if high, eliminating the risk.
Kaiser Derden
cool development but you missed that there are current systems able to continuously monitor blood sugars that are not surgically implanted ... both Dexcom and Medtronic sell them ... they do require a sensor be inserted under the skin but it comparable to a single finger prick and is good for multiple days use ... Google "continuous blood sugar monitoring" ... :)
Fantastic idea. Having dealt with type 1 diabetes for over 40 years, this would be a real boon for improving control. The Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems are very good but very expensive, both to buy the sender unit and the consumables. This would offer a practical step forward, but the article didn't say at what price or when it might become available. Still its great to see these innovations being developed.
Kaiser, With the Medtronic device, the user is still required to test to calibrate at least twice a day. Can't get away from those little (finger) pricks.
Stephen Mann
I want it I want it I want it.