Blood glucose monitoring can be a daily chore for people living with diabetes, but relief could be on the horizon thanks to a wearable glucometer that detects sugar in a user’s sweat.
It is currently estimated that over 415 million people worldwide are living with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. That means that for 1 in 11 of the world’s adult population, regular glucose testing could eventually become a way of life. This means that as diabetes prevalence increases globally, the demand for a non-intrusive, quick and efficient method of glucose measurement is also on the rise.
Researchers from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens could have devised a solution for this need in the form of a novel 3D printed device that allows people with diabetes to monitor blood sugar levels using just sweat and a common smartphone.
The device takes the format of a wearable electrochemical ring — or e-ring — fabricated with an affordable 3D printer. Inside the e-ring, a non-conductive flexible plastic holder ring coated with gold film holding three carbon electrodes that feed to a miniature circuit board. Data can be sent to an ordinary smartphone, with the team using a Samsung during testing.
The resultant sensors can detect biomarkers and measure the wearer’s sweat glucose level , thus indicating the overall blood glucose level.
Ultimately, this means a blood-glucose measuring platform that doesn’t require needles and is much less intrusive than current common glucometers. The research is detailed in a paper published in the journal Analytical Chemistry¹.
Blood, Sweat, But No Tears
Invasive blood glucose monitoring is more than a mere inconvenience for millions of people with diabetes.
For those of trypanophobia — the extreme fear of needles — the situation is more drastic. Because current monitors utilize enzymatic biosensors and painful needles to monitor blood sugar, a daily routine can turn into a nightmare. Often, that aversion to needles can lead to poor monitoring, something that can have drastic, if not deadly, consequences².
Currently, there are non-invasive blood sugar monitoring devices available, but these wearable electronic devices are restrictively expensive. Additionally, as these testing methods rely on monitoring enzymes, these platforms are extremely vulnerable to both heat and pH levels — qualities that ‘denature’ enzymes.
Fortunately, detecting glucose and other health conditions in sweat hinges on biomarkers that aren’t enzymes and aren’t as vulnerable to heat or pH levels. That is why the team tailored their sensor to examine perspiration.
Wearable Gluometers Could Provide Relief for People Living with Diabetes
Using an economical and commercially available 3D printer, the team created a series of four prototype devices with similar designs. These prototypes were exposed to a specially created ‘artificial sweat’ loaded with varying levels of glucose.
Testing was then transferred to a human subject who was tested before and after meals. The researchers discovered that the greater the gold film coverage the e-ring possessed, the better it was at correctly identifying glucose levels.
The team will now concentrate on improving the sensitivity of the e-ring device, which currently shows a deviation from established glucometers.
The team remains confident that that the device can be improved enough through future research to make it competitive in the glucose-sensor market, potentially providing relief for millions of people with diabetes.
- Katseli. V., Economou. A., Kokkinos. C., , ‘Smartphone-Addressable 3D-Printed Electrochemical Ring for Nonenzymatic Self-Monitoring of Glucose in Human Sweat,’ Analytical Chemistry, [https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.analchem.0c05057]
- Hawthorn. J., Craddock. S., , ‘Pain, distress, and blood glucose monitoring,’ Wounds International, [https://www.woundsinternational.com/resources/details/pain-distress-and-blood-glucose-monitoring]