Drawing blood glucose sensors on your body: The future of diagnostics?

Drawing a glucose monitor on the skin--Courtesy of University of California, San Diego

It's one of those ideas that sounds wacky and way out there, but researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have apparently found a way to draw a blood glucose sensor onto a patient's skin using regular ballpoint pen.

The team first demonstrated the efficacy of the "enzymatic ink" by drawing it on a special material containing biosensing electrodes. Then they put the subject's blood on the drawing. The ink reacted with the glucose and the electrode's measurement was sent to a blood glucose monitor, according to a UCSD release.

More eye-popping were experiments showing that the glucose measurements could be taken directly from ink drawn on the skin using a Bluetooth-enabled potentiostat, eliminating the need for needles. The team believes that one ballpoint pen can draw the equivalent of 500 glucose sensing strips, but the need for such a fancy piece of equipment as the potentiostat is impractical for rank-and-file diabetics, so the advance isn't yet ready for widespread clinical use. (Not to mention all of the testing the ink would have to survive in order to achieve commercialization.)

The ink consists of polyethylene glycol, which is used in several drug delivery applications, to bind the ingredients together, and graphite powder to make the the substance capable of conducting electricity. The antibacterial chitosan, used to reduce bleeding in other applications, is the adherent, and the sugar substitute xylitol is used to stabilize the enzyme, UCSD said.

More details are available in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials.

There are also other nonhealth-related applications of the special ink. For instance, the researchers drew a different formulation of the ink on a leaf to detect the industrial chemical and pollutant phenol.

UCSD says the researchers must now work on connecting the ink-based sensor to wireless monitoring devices and test its performance in various conditions such as extreme temperatures.

- read the release
- read the study abstract

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