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What is Diabetes Skin Patch and How It Works

For decades now, a major part of diabetes management has been all about daily finger pricks to measure one's blood sugar. Before the glucometer was invented, diabetics would use daily urine samples to get a general estimate of their blood glucose range [1] . The information obtained used to be extremely vague and hence not much helpful.

However, the present generation would only be aware of the glucometers that can provide results within 5 seconds [2] . Today's mainstream technique of diabetes management is through the use of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) [3] that are enabled to directly send the readings to one's smartphone every five minutes.

However, modern-day technology still needs daily finger pricks apart from the weekly insertion of sharp sensor-enabled needles for those using CGM. Ongoing researchers have paved way for a new technique which would make finger-pricking tests for diabetes a thing of the past now. Read on to know more about how a needle-less patch is being created that can measure and monitor blood sugar levels effectively.

Bloodless Diabetes Monitoring Through Adhesive Patches

The creation of a non-invasive, adhesive patch promises the measurement of glucose levels through the skin without the need for a finger-prick blood test. This adhesive skin patch can measure glucose levels every 10 to 15 minutes [4] .

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes (about 90 to 95 per cent of all cases). This kind of diabetes occurs when the body is no longer able to use insulin effectively or if there is a failure in producing enough of the hormone (causing blood glucose levels to become very high).

The researchers (who had been extensively working on the creation of this blood-less glucose monitoring method) have reported their findings and they seem quite favourable to be used by all diabetic patients.

Why The Finger-Prick Tests Are A Burden

To effectively manage diabetes, one would need to keep their blood glucose levels under control and this requires regular monitoring. The present method that most diabetics use is measuring glucose levels through a blood glucose meter. A needle is used to prick your finger in order to release a drop of blood, which can be tested.

The frequency of the finger-pricks is dependent on the type of diabetes a person has. It is also dependent on the type of medication that one has been using. Nevertheless, for people with type 1 diabetes, daily testing - which can go up to 10 times per day, is common.

Some people can find the need to keep pricking their fingers every now and then quite burdensome. Many experts and researchers have come out with data that shows that some of the barriers to good blood glucose control are the cost of blood test strips, fear of pain and needles and the inconvenience of the self-monitoring process [5] . These findings have made the researchers look out for blood glucose monitoring ways that can be noninvasive in nature.

The creators of the new diabetes skin patch claim that this invention has the potential to change the face of blood glucose monitoring.

How The Diabetes Skin Patch Works

The adhesive skin patch is made of miniature sensors that use electric currents to obtain the glucose from the fluid that is secreted from hair follicles or cells. The skin patch is designed with tiny reservoirs that store the collected glucose, according to a study published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology [6] .

This is then used to measure the levels every 10 to 15 minutes. The idea behind this is making the patient get access to his or her glucose reading instantly. The readings can be sent to a user's smartphone or smartwatch. This also works in a great way to inform the user when he or she needs to have the diabetes medication.

The best part is that the adhesive patch does not pierce the skin. Such patches are highly accurate as they measure glucose from a very small area on hair follicles. The miniature sensors are capable of operating on a small area over an individual hair follicle. The levels obtained are accurate as inter-skin and intra-skin variability in glucose extraction is minimized [7] . The readings, therefore, do not require any confirmation with the use of blood sampling.

Researchers have used graphene as one of the components so that attributes such as being conductive, flexible and strong can be added to the new invention alongside the features of being potentially low-cost and environmentally friendly [8] . Experts have said that the design of the skin patch is such that it opens up possibilities of new creative additions to its existing internal as well as external look and working style. The design can be implemented using high-throughput fabrication techniques such as screen printing.

Researchers conducted trials on a set of people to confirm that glucose tracking was accurate and that levels were displayed correctly each time. Research is still underway to make an enhancement to this creation by increasing the number of sensors present (in order to increase accuracy further).

On A Final Note...

The powerful and innovative design of the skin patch using an array of sensors and reservoirs, have made the patch efficient in not requiring calibration with a blood sample. Thus making finger-pricking blood tests absolutely unnecessary. Researchers strongly believe that the skin patches are the future of effective diabetes management by serving to be a low-cost, wearable sensor [9] that is enabled to regularly send accurate glucose measurements to the wearer's smartphone or smartwatch.

Nonetheless, it is a good idea to hold back and wait until researchers completely give a green signal to the use of these skin patches. Few studies have reported that this creation still seems incomplete in a few ways. Although the skin patches have shown promising results when tested on human participants, yet there is a clearance of few clinical trials still pending, one of them being the demonstration of its full functionality over a 24-hour period [10] .

View Article References
  1. [1] Marsden, J., & Pickering, D. (2015). Urine testing for diabetic analysis.Community eye health,28(92), 77.
  2. [2] Muktabhant, B., Sanchaisuriya, P., Sarakarn, P., Tawityanon, W., Trakulwong, M., Worawat, S., & Schelp, F. P. (2012). Use of glucometer and fasting blood glucose as screening tools for diabetes mellitus type 2 and glycated haemoglobin as a clinical reference in rural community primary care settings of a middle-income country.BMC public health,12, 349.
  3. [3] Pandit K. (2012). Continuous glucose monitoring.Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism,16(Suppl 2), S263-266.
  4. [4] Sobel, S. I., Chomentowski, P. J., Vyas, N., Andre, D., & Toledo, F. G. (2014). Accuracy of a Novel Noninvasive Multisensor Technology to Estimate Glucose in Diabetic Subjects During Dynamic Conditions.Journal of diabetes science and technology,8(1), 54-63.
  5. [5] Bowman, F. B. (1938). PAINLESS, BLOODLESS, AND SAFE HÆMORRHOIDECTOMY.Canadian Medical Association journal,38(5), 430.
  6. [6] Roe, J. N., & Smoller, B. R. (1998). Bloodless glucose measurements.Critical Reviews™ in Therapeutic Drug Carrier Systems,15(3).
  7. [7] Klonoff, D. C. (1997). Noninvasive blood glucose monitoring.Diabetes care,20(3), 433-437.
  8. [8] Pu, Z., Zou, C., Wang, R., Lai, X., Yu, H., Xu, K., & Li, D. (2016). A continuous glucose monitoring device by graphene modified electrochemical sensor in microfluidic system.Biomicrofluidics,10(1), 011910.
  9. [9] Lodwig, V., & Heinemann, L. (2003). Continuous glucose monitoring with glucose sensors: calibration and assessment criteria.Diabetes technology & therapeutics,5(4), 572-586.
  10. [10] Roe, J. N., & Smoller, B. R. (1998). Bloodless glucose measurements.Critical Reviews™ in Therapeutic Drug Carrier Systems,15(3).
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