August 19, 2002
BOSTON (American Chemical Society) -- For years, needles have been associated with the pain and hassle of monitoring blood sugar levels for diabetes, which is on the rise in this country. New devices are now being developed that may make the needles obsolete. These innovations promise to make monitoring easier and thus reduce such side effects as blindness, kidney disease and circulatory problems. The latest research on noninvasive and minimally invasive blood glucose monitoring was the subject of a daylong symposium and subsequent panel discussion at the 224th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
The symposium began on Sunday, Aug. 18, at the Sheraton Boston. A few highlights from the symposium, which will feature almost a dozen papers, are described below.
Measuring blood sugar with a beam of light: Mark A. Arnold, Ph.D., of the University of Iowa, and Gary W. Small, Ph.D., of Ohio University, will describe advances toward developing a device that monitors glucose levels by shining a beam of near infrared light on the skin. The researchers are evaluating several possible measurement sites, including the ear, tongue and fingers.
'Smart Tattoo' glows to reveal glucose levels: Gerard L. Coté, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University, is making strides toward developing a high-tech 'tattoo' that glows to reveal glucose levels. The technique will involve implanting polymer microspheres underneath the skin, probably in the abdomen or upper arm. The spheres contain special fluorescent molecules that are sensitive to glucose levels in the fluid surrounding the skin cells. When exposed to a special excitation light, the molecules fluoresce to reflect the intensity of the glucose levels, which can then be read by a detector.
Contact lens that changes color based on sugar levels: Vladimir Alexeev, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, is developing a special gel that shows promise in becoming a contact lens that allows diabetics to monitor their glucose levels simply by looking in the mirror. The gel contains a polymer that recognizes and binds to glucose. Depending on the glucose level in the tear fluid of the eye, the gel changes volume and causes crystalline materials inside the gel to change color. If all goes well in future studies, you'll be able to read your blood sugar levels based on the color of your contacts.