U.K. researchers develop noninvasive, infrared-based blood glucose monitor, license it to startup

Glucosense's blood glucose test device--Courtesy of Glucosense

Academics at the University of Leeds have developed a device that uses low-powered lasers to measure blood glucose levels on the surface of the skin. A bench-top version of the device is currently in a pilot clinical study, with two devices planned for market: a finger-touch device similar to a computer mouse and a wearable version for continuous monitoring.

Startup Glucosense Diagnostics, a spinout jointly formed and funded by the University of Leeds and healthcare tech transfer investor NetScientific, has licensed rights to the technology.

There are already some marketed options for noninvasively tracking blood glucose--but almost all of them require at least daily calibration using data from blood drawn via finger stick. It's been tough for industry to gain sufficient and consistent accuracy in noninvasive glucometers to entirely eliminate a regular finger stick, but the Leeds researchers said that early results from the pilot study "suggest that the new monitor has the potential to perform as well conventional technologies."

"As well as being a replacement for finger-prick testing, this technology opens up the potential for people with diabetes to receive continuous readings, meaning they are instantly alerted when intervention is needed," said Gin Jose, who developed the technology and is a professor at the Institute for Materials Research in the University of Leeds' School of Chemical and Process Engineering.

"This will allow people to self-regulate and minimize emergency hospital treatment. This wearable device would then be just one step from a product which sends alerts to smart phones or readings directly to doctors, allowing them to profile how a person is managing their diabetes over time," he added.

The technology employs a piece of nano-engineered silica glass with ions that fluoresce in infrared light when a low power laser light hits them. When the glass is in contact with a user's skin, the extent of the fluorescence varies in relation to the concentration of blood glucose. The device measures the length of time the fluorescence lasts and uses that to calculate glucose level. The entire process is said to take less than 30 seconds.

The researchers anticipate that an initial market for the technology would include pregnant women or people with recurrent hypoglycaemia--both groups require very tight glycemic control. Any products based on this technology are expected to be sturdy and cheaper to use than the existing technology

"The glass used in our sensors is hardwearing, acting in a similar way as that used in smartphones. Because of this, our device is more affordable, with lower running costs than the existing self-monitoring systems," concluded Jose.

- here is the release