Researchers from the University of Bath have created a non-invasive, adhesive patch, which can measure glucose levels through the skin without a finger-prick blood test, potentially removing the need for millions of diabetics to frequently carry out the painful and unpopular tests.
The patch does not pierce the skin, instead drawing glucose out from fluid between cells across hair follicles, which are individually accessed via an array of miniature sensors using a small electric current. Readings can be taken every 10 to 15 minutes over several hours.
Because of the design of the array of sensors and reservoirs, the patch does not require calibration with a blood sample, meaning that finger prick blood tests are unnecessary.
The proof of the concept behind the device has been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
The researchers hope that it can eventually become a low-cost, wearable sensor that sends regular, clinically relevant glucose measurements to the wearer’s phone or smartwatch wirelessly, alerting them when they may need to take action.
Professor Richard Guy, one of the study’s co-authors, said: ‘A non-invasive – that is, needle-less – method to monitor blood sugar has proven a difficult goal to attain. The closest that has been achieved has required either at least a single-point calibration with a classic ‘finger-stick’, or the implantation of a pre-calibrated sensor via a single needle insertion. The monitor developed at Bath promises a truly calibration-free approach, an essential contribution in the fight to combat the ever-increasing global incidence of diabetes.’
During this study the patch was tested on both pig skin, where they showed it could accurately track glucose levels across the range seen in diabetic human patients, and on healthy human volunteers, where again the patch was able to track blood sugar variations throughout the day.