June 11, 2013
New Sensor Technology Could Lead To Diabetes Breathalyzer Tests
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Chemists from the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) have reportedly demonstrated sensor technology which could someday eliminate the need for glucose-related blood tests currently used to diagnose most diabetes patients.The blood tests are often followed by expensive and invasive methods required to monitor their conditions, the researchers said. However, they claim that their sensors could lead to cheaper and noninvasive methods of diagnosing the ailment and keeping tabs on the patients´ overall wellbeing.
The technology would serve as a sort of breathalyzer that would be able to recognize symptoms of diabetes through their breath acetone – a characteristic “fruity” odor that increases significantly with high glucose levels.
Furthermore, the researchers, whose findings have been detailed in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, also believe that the biomarker can be used as a possible diagnostic tool.
“Once patients are diagnosed with diabetes, they have to monitor their condition for the rest of their lives,” explained principal investigator Alexander Star, an associate professor of chemistry at the Pennsylvania institution.
“Current monitoring devices are mostly based on blood glucose analysis, so the development of alternative devices that are noninvasive, inexpensive, and provide easy-to-use breath analysis could completely change the paradigm of self-monitoring diabetes,” he added.
Star and colleagues Dan Sorescu, a research physicist at the National Energy Technology Laboratory, and Mengning Ding, a Pitt graduate student studying chemistry used a technique known as a “sol-gel approach” — a method for using nanoscale-level molecules to produce solid materials.
They combined titanium dioxide — an inorganic compound often used in make-up and other common body-care products — with carbon nanotubes, which helped hold the particles together. The researchers compared the nanotubes, which are stronger than steel and smaller than silicon-based electronic elements, to the skewers typically used while grilling or roasting meats.
Star, Sorescu and Ding lightheartedly refer to the method as ℠titanium dioxide on a stick,´ and they claim that can effectively combine the electrical properties of the tubes with the light-illuminating powers of the titanium dioxide. They then created the sensor device by using these substances as an electrical semiconductor, using measurements from its electrical resistance as the sensor´s signal.
“The researchers found the sensor could be activated with light to produce an electrical charge,” the university explained in a statement. “This prompted them to 'cook' the “'skewers' in the sensor under ultraviolet light to measure acetone vapors — which they found were lower than previously reported sensitivities.”
“Our measurements have excellent detection capabilities. If such a sensor could be developed and commercialized, it could transform the way patients with diabetes monitor their glucose levels,” added Star. He and his colleagues are currently in the process of developing a prototype of the sensor, and they have plans to test it on human breath samples in the near future.