A new non-invasive patch for diabetics lined with graphene and gold can detect glucose levels in the bloodstream and issue metformin to correct the issue. It is far from market-ready, but may become a useful tool for patients with Type II diabetes (via Seoul National University)
Diabetes is a serious concern across the globe. The World Health Organization estimated nine percent of all adults in 2014 were diabetic. Further, approximately 90 percent of all diabetic patients have Type II diabetes. Currently, diabetic patients must regularly test their blood levels by pricking fingertips and other body parts, to assess their glucose levels using devices that can analyze their blood. But scientists think there is a better way.
Researchers from Seoul National University, Massachusetts, and Texas developed a skin patch that can measure glucose levels in the bloodstream using microneedles. The patch sits on the wrist, much like a wrist cuff, and is lined with graphene and gold to monitor changes in a patient’s electrochemistry. The patch can both monitor glucose levels, and administer medication to decrease the likelihood of blood sugar levels getting too low.
The semi-closed loop system is one of the first that could be ideal for Type II diabetes patients. Unlike patients with Type I diabetes, patients with Type II diabetes can produce insulin naturally, but the body may be desensitized to insulin, or the pancreas may not produce enough. This patch would help with that by notifying patients when blood sugar gets too low (via an accompanying app), and it can administer metformin – a drug that helps the body use insulin more efficiently.
The patch monitors glucose by analyzing the sweat of the user. And while it is extremely innovative, it is still unrealistic for use in adults. The patch cannot deliver as much metformin as would be necessary to fend off a serious drop in the glucose levels of an adult. With this, the current design could not support the amount of metformin necessary to do so, unless it is greatly expanded to an unrealistic size. The researchers are currently working on the prototype to correct the issue.
The cuff is, however, a wonderful minimally invasive way for patients to keep tabs on their glucose levels throughout the day, and when it gets too low, they can self-medicate. It is triggered at 105 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is ideal for patients that do not live in extremely hot or humid areas (sorry Texans). Researchers are still figuring out a way to correct this issue, but at present, it could be ideal for Alaskans or Minnesotans.
One of the biggest successes of the study was finding a realistic, useful purpose for graphene. This design could influence countless medical sensors moving forward. Researchers will continue to work on the prototype. The scientific full report was published in Nature and can be seen here.
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