Industrial Electronics

Patch for Diabetes Can Read Glucose Levels Without Being Invasive

10 April 2018

New technology to help with diabetes treatment is constantly being developed. Researchers are always trying to find a way for patients to manage their diabetes medication in the easiest and most non-invasive way possible. One of the most recent developments is an adhesive patch that can measure glucose levels through a patient’s skin without having to prick a finger or carry around a clunky test kit.

The sensor array is designed to draw fluid across a single hair follicle. (Source: University of Bath)The sensor array is designed to draw fluid across a single hair follicle. (Source: University of Bath)

The new patch doesn’t pierce the skin. It draws glucose from the fluid between the cells of the hair follicles into tiny reservoirs and then assessed and measured by miniature sensors with a small electric current. The patch tests every 10 to 15 minutes over a few hours. The patch doesn’t require calibration with a blood sample due to the design of the sensors and reservoirs.

The research team behind this patch is from the University of Bath. The team wants to further develop the patch so it can be offered as a low-cost, wearable option for diabetes patients to take advantage of. One of the next steps is to develop the patch to send glucose readings to the wearer’s phone or smartwatch and alert them if their levels are off.

Professor Richard Guy from the Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology at the University of Bath said, “A non-invasive — that is, needleless — method to monitor blood sugar has proven a difficult goal to attain. 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, an essential contribution in the fight to combat the ever-increasing global incidence of diabetes."

“The specific architecture of our array permits calibration-free operation, and it has the further benefit of allowing realization with a variety of materials in combination," said Dr. Adelina Ilie, from the University's Department of Physics. "We utilized graphene as one of the components as it brings important advantages: specifically, it is strong, conductive, flexible, and potentially low-cost and environmentally friendly. In addition, our design can be implemented using high-throughput fabrication techniques like screen printing, which we hope will ultimately support a disposable, widely affordable device."

The patch was tested on pig skin and human volunteers. The pigskin allowed the researchers to figure out the right number of sensors the patch requires. The human volunteers proved that the patch could track blood sugar variations through a day.

The team is currently focusing on refining the design to make the patch last a full 24 hours.

The paper on this research was published in Nature Nanotechnology.



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