One of the most essential – but also most dreaded – things about living with diabetes is the daily chore of monitoring blood sugar levels. Careful monitoring is important because it allows patients to keep their blood sugar stable and within a safe range. But, it can also be a painful and unpleasant task because it requires pricking a finger with a small, sharp device called a lancet in order to collect a blood sample. However, there may soon be some good news for patients with diabetes. A team of German scientists are in the process of developing a new no finger prick blood sugar meter.
The new blood sugar meter would use infrared laser light directed on top of the skin to measure sugar levels in the fluid in and below skin cells.
According to study lead author, Dr. Werner Mäntele, of the Institute for Biophysics at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University in Frankfurt, Germany, this would open up the possibility of testing blood sugar levels without expensive test strips or painful finger pricks.
Their goal with this research, says Mäntele, is to develop a method of testing that is cheaper, easier and more reliable.
The new testing method uses what is called photoacoustic spectroscopy (PAS) to measure glucose, which is the type of sugar found in blood. In this method, a painless pulse of infrared laser light would be beamed at the skin. This light would then be absorbed by glucose molecules within the fluids inside and under the skin cells, creating a sound signature which could be measured by the device. Dr. Mäntele calls this unique sound signature “the sweet melody of glucose.” The measurement process is very fast, he says, detecting glucose in the skin fluids in a matter of seconds.
This process works in measuring blood sugar levels, he says, because skin cell glucose levels can be closely correlated with blood glucose levels. This allows the skin glucose measurement to be used as a proxy for more invasive blood sugar testing.
The development of the no finger prick blood sugar meter has not been without problems, however. Mäntele says that previous attempts to use PAS in this manner have been hindered by distortion related to environmental conditions, such humidity, temperature and air pressure created by skin contact. But, the team of researchers say they been able to adjust the method to overcome these problems.
The technology is under development at this point and does not yet have regulatory approval for commercial use. However, the team is working closely with a company called Elte Sensoric in Germany to develop the new no finger prick blood sugar meter, and they hope to have a device about the size of a shoe box ready in about three years. And, their ultimate goal is to develop a portable meter, they say.
The new blood sugar testing method is discussed in a Review of Scientific Instruments article which was published on October 25, 2013.
Written by: Nancy Schimelpfening