PIONEERING: Non-invasive device could change lives for diabetes sufferers
Pioneering technology developed in Leeds
There is no getting away from the fact that Diabetes is a very real issue in the UK for the Asian population, with the demographic six times more likely to be effected by the condition than people of white British origin.
Monitoring the condition currently involves people measuring their blood glucose levels by pricking their fingers, squeezing drops of blood onto test strips, and processing the results with portable glucometers
Not only is this process uncomfortable, it is messy and often has to be repeated several times every day.
However, this intrusive test could soon become extinct after a revolutionary laser sensor was developed right here in Leeds, which looks set to transform the lives of millions of people living with the condition.
The new technology, developed by Professor Gin Jose and a team in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Leeds, uses a small device with low-powered lasers to measure blood glucose levels without penetrating the skin and could give people a simpler, pain-free alternative to finger pricking.
Named the Glucosense Monitor, it has continuous monitoring capabilities making it ideal for development as a wearable device. This could help improve the lives of millions of people by enabling them to constantly monitor their glucose levels without the need for an implant.
It is also good news for healthcare providers as it could provide a simpler and cheaper alternative to both of the current methods – finger pricking, which uses disposable sample strips, or invasive continuous monitors, which use implanted sensors that need regular replacement.
Professor Jose explained: “Unlike the traditional method, this new non-invasive technology can constantly monitor blood glucose levels.
“As well as being a replacement for finger-prick testing, this technology opens up the potential for people with diabetes to receive continuous readings, meaning they are instantly alerted when intervention is needed.
“This will allow people to self-regulate and minimise emergency hospital treatment. This wearable device would then be just one step from a product which sends alerts to smart phones or readings directly to doctors, allowing them to profile how a person is managing their diabetes over time.”
At the heart of the new technology is a piece of nano-engineered silica glass with ions that fluoresce in infrared light when a low power laser light hits them.
When the glass is in contact with the users’ skin, the extent of the fluorescence signal varies in relation to the concentration of glucose in their blood.
The device measures the length of time the fluorescence lasts for and uses that to calculate the glucose level in a person’s bloodstream without the need for a needle.
This process takes less than 30 seconds.
“The glass used in our sensors is hardwearing, acting in a similar way as that used in smartphones,” Professor Jose added.
“Because of this, our device is more affordable, with lower running costs than the existing self-monitoring systems.
“Currently, we are piloting a bench top version in our clinical investigations but aim to develop two types of devices for the market. One will be a finger-touch device similar to a computer mouse. The other will be a wearable version for continuous monitoring.”
The technology is licensed to Glucosense Diagnostics, a spin-out company jointly formed and funded by the University of Leeds and NetScientific plc.