Home Blood Glucose Monitoring as We Know It Today Can soon Become Obsolete

The hormone insulin ‘unlocks’ cells so that sugar molecules in the blood can enter them to provide energy. The right amount of insulin production helps maintain normal blood sugar levels.

Diabetes is the result of a deficiency in insulin production. Both abnormally high and abnormally low insulin levels lead to unhealthy fluctuations in blood sugar that can cause a wide range of medical problems. Diabetics have to constantly monitor their blood sugar to avoid these complications.

For many years, the most convenient option available to the almost 500 million international diabetic patients has been the home glucose test kit. Such kits draw a small amount of blood (usually through a prick of the finger).blood-glucose_sensor-2 The blood is then transferred to a testing strip that is inserted into the machine that ascertains the glucose level in the sample. This process must be repeated several times a day at regular intervals, meaning more needles, finger pricks, blood and pain.

With wearable technology making its mark in fashion and entertainment for a number of years now, medicine, too, has decided to jump on the bandwagon. A new type of non-invasive glucose detection technology is being developed by an ambitious team of US scientists from the University of California at San Diego.

A nanoengineer Amay Bandodkar who leads the team says they are developing a glucose monitoring patch that may be stuck onto a patient and peeled off as required, similar to how a temporary tattoo works. The device is a rectangular piece of thin, transparent, flexible plastic. Within it are attached two electrodes a small distance apart. A small current passes between the electrodes for 10 minutes. This causes sodium and glucose ions under the skin to gravitate towards the electrodes. The resulting electric charge gives scientists all the variables they need to calculate the concentration of glucose in the blood.

The prototype model requires external monitors, but Bandodkar’s team is planning to include a numerical display which would make the process an at-home patient task. Their plan is to integrate it into the cloud so results are immediately transmitted to the relevant healthcare professionals as required. Alerts, alarms and reminders for both patient and doctor may be incorporated.

Bandodkar sees potential beyond just diabetes – from blood alcohol content to minute traces of amino acids to monitor medication. The amazing thing is that, in its current prototype stage, the device costs just a few cents to manufacture.