September 8, 2012

Diabetics: Glucose-Monitoring Nano-Chip Could Spell The End Of Painful Finger Pricks

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online

A new, non-invasive method of measuring a person's blood glucose levels developed by a German research firm could free diabetics from the pain and annoyance of daily finger pricks.

The new method, which has been developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Society, uses a tiny chip that is placed on a person's body and can measure his or her blood sugar levels through perspiration, tears, or other bodily fluids, explained Daily Mail reporter Eddie Wrenn.

This biosensor would, ideally, eliminate the need for diabetics to puncture their skin using a lancet and collecting blood on a test strip for analysis. While prior attempts to develop such a bioelectric sensor resulted in devices that were too large, too imprecise, and required too much power to operate, the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits IMS team that developed the new nano-sensor overcomes those obstacles while also being more comfortable, the organization said in a statement.

According to Wrenn, the chip is just 0.5 x 2.0 millimeters in size, and includes both a potentiostat (the hardware required to operate the system) and an entire diagnostic system. Furthermore, IMS business unit manager Tom Zimmerman said that the device contains an integrated analog digital converter, which changes electrochemical signals into digital information that is then transmitted wirelessly to a mobile receiver.

This allows the diabetic patient to closely monitor his or her glucose levels -- which is especially important for Type I diabetics, who cannot produce insulin on their own, the institute noted.

"The minimal size is not the only thing that provides a substantial advantage over previous biosensors of this type. In addition, the sensor consumes substantially less power," the Fraunhofer Institute said. "Earlier systems required about 500 microamperes at five volts; now, it is less than 100 microamperes. That increases the durability of the system -- allowing the patient to wear the sensor for weeks, or even months."

"Since it can be manufactured so cost-effectively, it is best suited for mass production," they added. "These non-invasive measuring devices for monitoring blood glucose levels may become the basis for a particularly useful further development in the future: The biochip could control an implanted miniature pump that, based on the glucose value measured, indicates the precise amount of insulin to administer. That way, diabetes patients could say goodbye to incessant needle-pricks forever."