A laser sensor that monitors blood glucose levels without penetrating the skin could transform the lives of people living with diabetes.
Currently, many people with diabetes need to measure their blood glucose levels by pricking their fingers, squeezing drops of blood onto test strips, and processing the results with portable glucometers. This process can be uncomfortable and often has to be repeated several times every day.
The new technology, developed by Professor Gin Jose and a team in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Leeds, uses a small device with low-powered lasers to measure blood glucose levels without penetrating the skin. This could provide people with diabetes a simpler, pain-free alternative to finger pricking.
The laser sensor has continuous monitoring capabilities making it ideal for development as a wearable device. This could help improve the lives of people by enabling them to constantly monitor their glucose levels without the need for an implant.
This technology is also good news for healthcare providers as it could provide a simpler and cheaper alternative to both of the current methods: finger pricking, which uses disposable sample strips, or invasive continuous monitors, which use implanted sensors that need regular replacement.
At the heart of the laser sensor 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 fluorescence signal varies in relation to the concentration of glucose in their blood. The device measures the length of time the fluorescence lasts for and uses that to calculate the glucose level in a person’s bloodstream without the need for a needle. This process takes less than 30 seconds.
The results of a pilot clinical study, carried out at the Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine under the supervision of Professor Peter Grant, suggest that the monitor has the potential to perform as well as conventional technologies. More clinical trials and product optimisation are required for regulatory approvals and before the technology can be put on the market.
The technology is licensed to Glucosense Diagnostics, a spin-out company jointly formed and funded by the University of Leeds and NetScientific, a biomedical and healthcare technology group specialising in commercialising transformative technologies from leading universities and research institutes.
Professor Jose said: “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. This will allow people to self-regulate and minimise emergency hospital treatment.”
“Diabetes is a growing problem, with the need for non-invasive glucose monitoring becoming ever more critical. This unique technology could allow people with diabetes to better manage their condition and minimise interventions with healthcare providers,” commented Sir Richard Sykes, Chairman, NetScientific.
Professor Grant added: “Non-invasive 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 hypoglycaemia could find this technology very useful.”