Scientists at the University of California, San Diego, developed a thin and flexible patch resembling a temporary tattoo that they say can continuously monitor glucose levels in the blood without puncturing or irritating the skin. The sensor is a clear patch affixed with two small electrodes and an enzyme that reacts with glucose. The researchers ran a mild electrical current through the electrodes to drive glucose to the surface of the skin where it reacted with the enzyme on the patch. Measuring the reaction allowed the scientists to accurately take blood glucose measurements in seven healthy volunteers. They published their findings Monday, January 12, 2015, in the journal Analytical Chemistry.
The team is part of the Center for Wearable Sensors at UCSD and is now working with other engineers to develop the other half of the device: a wearable wristband or other similar device that would provide the electrical current and the glucose readouts. The tool could be available in a few years and could have appeal not just to Type 1 diabetics, said Amay Bandodkar, one of the researchers on the team.
“Carbohydrate-rich diets and the related insulin spike is one of the major reasons for several of the modern lifestyle diseases faced by humans, especially in developed countries like the USA,” Bandodkar told CNBC. A noninvasive glucose monitor might appeal to a broad swath of the population suffering from Type 2 diabetes as well, which does not require insulin injections, or other diet-related diseases. Bandodkar thinks information about glucose levels could be collected in databases and help scientists understand broad health trends, and the “corrective steps needed to be taken to control the spread of modern lifestyle diseases,” he said.
Non-invasive glucose monitoring has become something of a hot area. A medical device company called Cygnus had previously brought wristband-based glucose monitor to market, but wearers complained of skin irritation, according to the UCSD researchers.