New nano-biosensor to end the era of finger-pricking?
Posted on Sep 19, 2012 in News
Within the next few years, we may see an end to the painful and bothersome task of finger-pricking faced by diabetics. People with diabetes currently use finger-pricking devices, such as lancets, to obtain blood samples. According to the International Diabetes Federation, 366 million people are currently living with diabetes. This translates into millions of fingers being pricked multiple times a day to determine blood glucose levels.
In the US, the CDC estimates that there are 18.8 million people diagnosed with diabetes, seven million undiagnosed individuals, and 79 million people with “prediabetes.” People with prediabetes have near-diabetes-level results on blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c tests and are five to six times more likely to develop diabetes. Blood glucose tests look for sugar levels in the blood when fasting or two hours after eating. Normal, non-diabetic blood glucose fasting levels are at or less than 100 mg/dL and glucose levels two hours after eating are generally at or less than 140 mg/dL. Hemoglobin A1c is a three-month average of a person’s blood sugar: non-diabetic individuals have hemoglobin A1c levels between 4 to 5.6 percent.
High blood sugar has numerous frightening effects on a person’s body. Hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetic retinopathy, dental diseases, kidney failure, and nervous system damage are only a few of the complications diabetic patients may develop with uncontrolled sugar levels. An insulin regiment paired with healthier diets and exercising can help maintain a lower, healthier sugar level, which can stave off associated complications.
Researchers at Fraunhofer–an applied research organization based in Germany– have developed an efficient, diagnostic system that uses a bioelectric sensor to test glucose levels in bodily fluids like sweat or tears. The nano-chip measures the concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and other chemicals found when glucose, a sugar, is converted to energy. After measuring levels of these molecules, the device changes the electrochemical information into digital information. These blood glucose levels can then be wirelessly transmitted to the patient’s cell phone. The nano-biosensor is predicted to have a lengthened lifespan as it consumes less power than its larger ancestors.
The development of the nano-biosensor lays the foundation for further developments. Tom Zimmerman, a business unit manager at Fraunhofer, stated, “[the biosensor] could control an implanted miniature pump that, based on the glucose value measured, indicates the precise amount of insulin to administer.” The advent of this system could bring an end the finger-pricking endured by diabetic patients worldwide. Subsequently, a less invasive way of managing blood sugar levels may reduce the prevalence of diabetes related complications.