Sixth sense: Monitoring blood glucose
On World Diabetes Day, we find out about a non-invasive blood glucose monitor being developed by engineers and clinicians at Cardiff and Swansea universities.
Daily testing of blood glucose levels is part of everyday life for people with diabetes. For those with type 1 diabetes, in order to check the effectiveness of their most recent insulin injection and to decide how much to inject next time, this can be up to ten times a day. Most people use a test that pricks the end of their finger to produce a small drop of blood, which is then tested to show what their blood glucose level is at that time.
Researchers at the University of Cardiff and Swansea University are developing a new blood glucose monitor: one that measures glucose levels continuously and is completely non-invasive. They aim to produce a small electronic sensor that attaches discreetly to the body and measures the levels of glucose in the blood throughout the day and night, with no pain or sensation for the patient.
Changes in blood glucose levels, as well as other changes in the body, affect microwave fields within the sensor. The sensor records these changes and alerts the patient immediately when their blood glucose level requires attention. This will hopefully assist in providing better management of – and information about – the condition, without the need for regular finger-prick tests.
Professor Adrian Porch, Director of Research and Innovation in the School of Engineering at the University of Cardiff, leads the research team, which includes a diabetes expert as well as engineers. “Many health problems associated with diabetes come from poor management of blood glucose levels,” says Adrian. “We hope that our monitor will lead to better management of the condition, and therefore health benefits for the patient.”
Adrian hopes the device will be ready for market by spring 2014. At the moment, they are trialling the sensor head and next will work on making the portable electronic part. Although there’s still some way to go, the project could become the next step in the effective management of diabetes.
On World Diabetes Day, we’d love to hear your comments about this project. Do you have diabetes, or know someone with diabetes whom this could help? Would it be a better alternative to existing monitors?