Wearable Patch May Help Manage Diabetes Painlessly
Experimental technology senses blood sugar and delivers medicine with microneedles
By Serena Gordon
MONDAY, March 21, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- An experimental device might one day literally take the pain out of managing diabetes, Korean researchers say.
The new invention uses a patch to monitor blood sugar levels via sweat, and delivers the diabetes drug metformin through the skin with microneedles.
"Diabetics are reluctant to monitor their blood glucose levels because of the painful blood-gathering process," said study author Hyunjae Lee, from Seoul National University in the Republic of Korea. "We highly focused on a noninvasive monitoring and therapy system for diabetics."
The findings were published online March 21 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. The study team was led by Dae-Hyeong Kim, at Seoul National University. Funding for the study was provided by the Institute for Basic Science in the Republic of Korea.
Currently, people with diabetes have two options for monitoring blood sugar (glucose) levels, said Richard Guy, who wrote an accompanying editorial in the journal. He's a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom.
One option is a blood glucose meter that requires a finger stick to draw out a drop of blood for testing. The other option is continuous glucose monitoring, which requires that a sensor be placed underneath the skin and worn constantly. Both of these options are invasive and can be painful.
Previously, a less invasive product called GlucoWatch pulled fluid through the skin to the device to measure blood sugar levels. However, that device was never commercially successful and was taken off the market, Guy said.
The Korean research team used a substance called graphene to develop a thin, flexible patch. Graphene conducts electricity, and can be transparent, soft and very thin, the researchers explained.
The patch also contains a variety of sensors that detect humidity, sweat glucose levels, pH and temperature, the researchers said. In addition, the patch contains heat-sensitive microneedles.
The patch uses sweat to determine "sweat glucose," which can be used to figure out blood glucose levels. Lee said the accuracy of the sweat glucose sensor is similar to that of home blood glucose meters in the United States.