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No-Prick Blood Sugar Tests Unveiled

Fewer Finger Pricks With Future Blood Sugar Tests
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 25, 2007 (Chicago) -- New devices for people with diabetes may make their lives a little easier.

Researchers say using light beams to measure blood sugar through the skin will mean needing finger pricks only for calibration.

Diabetes means your body has trouble controlling the amount of sugar in your blood. The key to diabetes treatment is blood sugar control.

That's why people with diabetes -- particularly those who need insulin -- have to check their blood sugar levels several times during the day. This means getting a drop of blood by pricking a finger.

The discomfort and inconvenience of finger pricking is one reason people with diabetes don't check their blood sugar as often as they should.

Moreover, continuous blood sugar monitoring ideally would be better than checking blood sugar only at intervals. And such monitors could be hooked up to insulin pumps to ensure people get insulin when they need it, 24 hours a day. But current devices use a thin needle inserted beneath the skin.

Several companies are competing to bring patients blood sugar monitors that all but eliminate blood letting. One is the GlucoLight Corp. Another is OrSense Ltd. Both reported progress at the American Diabetes Association's 67th Annual Scientific Sessions, held June 22-26 in Chicago.

The two companies' devices are very different. The OrSense device uses a finger cuff that periodically restricts blood flow -- much like a blood pressure test -- and then uses a sensor to detect blood-specific signals from infrared light transmitted through the finger.

A bulky version is already approved for sale in Europe. And a new model would strap to the wrist like a large watch, with a small wire connecting it to a ring on the index finger.

The GlucoLight uses a sensor to scan the skin using infrared light. The sensor is attached to a monitor that, in the current version, is too big to carry around. It's currently being tested in intensive care wards, where constant blood sugar monitoring is essential for many patients. A much smaller, wearable device is in the works but still years away.

Both devices still need blood for calibration -- once when first connected, and then at regular intervals. The OrSense device can go about 12 hours without calibration, Gideon Fostick, OrSense chief operating officer, tells WebMD.

"Our goal is to extend this duration," Fostick says. "Right now, it can cover a day or a night."

The GlucoLight, once calibrated, is good for four days, according to the company's presentation.

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