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New Laser Sensor Could End Daily Finger Pricking for People With Diabetes

Researchers develop wearable device

A small device with low-powered lasers that measure blood glucose levels without penetrating the skin could give people with diabetes a simpler, pain-free alternative to finger pricking, according to researchers at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.

The new technology was developed by Professor Gin Jose and his colleagues in the university’s Faculty of Engineering.

“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,” Jose said. “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.”

At the heart of the new technology is a piece of nano-engineered silica glass with ions that fluoresce in infrared light when a low-power laser light hits them. When the glass is in contact with the users’ skin, the extent of the fluorescence signal varies in relation to the concentration of glucose in the user’s blood. The device measures the length of time the fluorescence lasts and uses that to calculate the glucose level in a person’s bloodstream without the need for a needle. The entire process takes less than 30 seconds.

 “Currently, we are piloting a bench-top version in our clinical investigations, but we aim to develop two types of devices for the market,” Jose said. “One will be a finger-touch device similar to a computer mouse. The other will be a wearable version for continuous monitoring.”

The results of a pilot clinical study suggest that the new monitor has the potential to perform as well as conventional technologies. More clinical trials and product optimization are required for regulatory approvals and before the technology can be put on the market.

Dr. Peter Grant, professor of medicine at the University of Leeds, said: “Noninvasive monitoring will be particularly valuable in young people with type-1 diabetes. Within this group, those who are attempting very tight control, such as young women going through pregnancy or people who are experiencing recurrent hypoglycemia, could find this technology very useful.”

Source: University of Leeds; July 14, 2015.


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