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No More Painful Pricks: New Device Allows Diabetics To Measure Glucose Level From Sweat

Pricking a fingertip to monitor blood sugar level.

The glucose meter currently used for self-monitoring blood sugar at home requires pricking a fingertip to obtain the blood. This will become history soon. Diabetes patients can now check their glucose level from their sweat.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : May 7, 2021 5:21 PM IST

People with diabetes may not have to go through that painful finger pricks each day to check their blood sugar levels anymore. A research team from the University of California San Diego's Nanoengineering Department have developed a device that can measure glucose in sweat with the touch of a fingertip. They have also come up with a personalized algorithm that could translate each person's sweat glucose to their blood glucose levels. This new painless and simple glucose self-testing could enable frequent testing of glucose and enhance patient compliance toward the improved management of diabetes, the researchers said in their paper published in ACS Sensors.

Prevalence of diabetes worldwide

Diabetes occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar) or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Uncontrolled diabetes causes hyperglycaemia, or high blood sugar, which over time leads to serious damage to many of the body's systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation. As per WHO estimates, about 422 million people worldwide have diabetes, and the prevalence has been rising exponentially, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. About 1.6 million deaths are directly attributed to diabetes each year, according to the organisation.

Need for less painful approaches

The rising prevalence of diabetes has increased the need for reliable non-invasive approaches for glucose monitoring. Regular blood glucose monitoring is a critical part of diabetes management. Currently, people with diabetes monitor their blood sugar at home using a portable glycemic reader (glucose meter). It requires pricking a fingertip to obtain the blood. You may need to do go through this painful procedure multiple times in a day. For example, if you have type 1 diabetes, your doctor may recommend blood sugar testing four to 10 times a day. Because of the pain and inconvenience, many patients do not check their blood glucose as often as they should. Therefore, researchers have been exploring different biofluids for replacing current blood finger-stick glucose strips with noninvasive painless sensing devices.

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[caption id="attachment_812345" align="alignnone" width="655"] Touch-Based Fingertip Blood-Free Reliable Glucose Monitoring. (Image: ACS Sensors)[/caption]

Touch-based fingertip sweat sensor

Joseph Wang, Juliane R. Sempionatto and Jong-Min Moon from the Nanoengineering Department, University of California San Diego, have demonstrated a new rapid, reliable, and painless method for monitoring blood glucose levels in diabetes patients from their sweat. While sweat has been considered in previous studies too, obtaining a more reliable estimate of blood sugar from sweat has been a challenge. As the sugar levels in sweat are much lower than in blood, the results can vary depending on a person's sweat rate and skin properties. Joseph Wang and team has found a solution. The new system developed by them consists of a simple touch-based fingertip sweat electrochemical sensor that collects sweat from a fingertip and then a personalized algorithm translates the person's sweat glucose to their blood glucose levels. You just need to place your fingertip on the sensor surface for 1 minute, it is as simple as that. In tests, the researchers found the algorithm was more than 95% accurate in predicting blood glucose levels before and after meals. However, the experts noted that a large-scale study must be conducted before the sweat diagnostic is made available to masses to manage diabetes.

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