A Revolutionary new skin patch that checks glucose levels every 60 seconds could provide a completely pain-free way of monitoring diabetes. The high-tech patch performs round the-clock measurements and beams the readings to a handheld monitor, no bigger than a mobile phone. The device, which is expected to be available in the U.K. later this year, does away with the daily routine of painful finger-prick tests to measure changes in glucose. It is also hoped it will allow diabetics to control their glucose levels more easily, reducing the long-term risks of heart disease, blindness and kidney damage.
Additionally, the patch is programmed to sound an alarm if blood glucose rises or falls to dangerous levels.
Diabetes affects nearly 1.8 million people in the U.K. The disease develops when the body’s insulin production fails, so the amount of glucose in the blood is too high.
Pain-free glucose testing systems are something scientists have been striving to achieve for many years. One device already available is a watch that tests blood sugar levels every 20 minutes over a 12-hour period. Called GlucoWatch, it uses a tiny electric current to draw glucose out of the skin on to a special gel, before giving an instant reading. But while this device is not intended to replace regular blood tests, the newest patch technology mentioned above is believed to be so accurate it may replace finger-prick samples. Called the Freestyle Navigator, it has been developed by U.S. firm Abbott Laboratories. A miniature sensor is first implanted just under the skin on the upper arm or tummy by the patient, using a specially-designed spring-loaded device. Over the top of this goes a patch that is about the same size as a sticking plaster, containing a tiny transmitter.
The sensor constantly detects glucose levels in the body’s interstitial fluid which circulates between cells – and the transmitter sends the information to the handheld monitor, which is small enough to be carried in a pocket or purse. The manufacturer hopes to get European marketing approval later this year.
HOW IT WORKS
Sensor is placed under skin in arm
Glucose levels measured minute by minute by sensor
Transmitter patch beams readings back to handheld monitor
Source material for this article: Financial Times Information Limited