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Painless Test for Blood Sugar Under Development

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Such a device could come in the form of a skin patch that measures glucose levels and then delivers insulin back through the skin, he says. Pishko is assistant professor of chemical engineering at Texas A&M University in College Station.

"This is an exciting new concept," says Furlanetto. "While there appears to be some remaining technical problems, this article definitely demonstrates the validity of the underlying concept."

"Over the years there have been many efforts to develop a safe, painless, accurate way to monitor blood glucose concentrations," says Jeffrey Flier, MD, also an independent observer. "While the study does seem to offer a promising approach, many earlier efforts have reached a preliminary stage without actually producing a commercially viable product. In other words, this is not a sure thing." Flier is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of endocrinology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

The researchers predict their method could be used to test other substances, such as cholesterol and bilirubin -- a chemical formed in the liver -- as well as glucose. They are working to make their methods more efficient; for example, in this study they used two minutes of ultrasound, while another study now underway uses only half a minute. Pishko estimates a usable device that measures blood sugar through the skin could be ready for the commercial market within five to seven years.

Vital Information:

  • Researchers are developing a new, painless way to measure blood sugar levels.
  • The technology could be especially important for people who have diabetes and have to measure their blood sugar four times a day with a finger-prick test.
  • The new device uses ultrasound and a vacuum to draw out a very small amount of fluid through the skin to test for glucose and other substances.
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