MAY 11, 2016 6:31 AM PDT

Microwave Sensor: A Painless Way to Manage Diabetes?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
Patients with diabetes struggle daily with painful finger pricks to monitor their blood sugar levels. Now, a new device developed by researchers the UK's Cardiff University delivers the same function as traditional glucose sensors but without the pain. The new wearable glucose monitor attaches to the body via sticky adhesives and records the blood sugar levels using microwave technology. Researchers say this device could reach the market in five years time, and has the potential to dramatically change how patients manage diabetes.
Wearable microwave sensor could eliminate finger pricks for diabetic patients
 Diabetes is characterized by the body’s inability to regulate blood glucose levels. In type 1 diabetes, insulin is not made in enough quantities because the insulin producing cells (islet cells) are attacked and destroyed by the body’s own immune system. As a result, the body is unable to regulate blood sugar levels normally, and diabetics must take great care in monitoring their activity, diet, and glucose levels. This involves as many as six daily finger pricks to check for blood glucose levels.
 
To remove the stress of this process for the patients, the UK researchers developed a wearable device that measures glucose without the need for blood samples. Led by Adrian Porch and Heungjae Choi, the team’s device is small and attaches simply to a patient’s arm or side of the body with ordinary adhesives. The monitor works by sending microwaves into the skin, and transmitting the readings to a computer or smart phone for analysis. 
 
“Conventional methods of monitoring blood glucose require the extraction of blood,” said Adrian Porch. “Our device is non-invasive — it does not require the extraction of blood apart from the initial calibration.”
 
And they say the microwave-based device is completely safe to attach to a human body. "It uses microwaves, but the levels are very, very low. Nowhere near the levels used in domestic cooking,” said Porch. He further clarified that the glucose sensor emits about 1000 times less microwaves than a cell phone.
 
In research studies, the device performed as well as commercially available glucose sensors that rely on blood samples. The team plans to test this device in larger clinical trials this summer at the Swansea University’s College of Medicine in collaboration with Stephen Luzio.
 
“Patients are very keen on this,” said Luzio. “One of the big problems with patients measuring their glucose is they don’t like pricking their finger, so there’s a lot of interest.”
 
The incidence of diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate worldwide. In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated 422 million people were diagnosed with diabetes. Furthermore, WHO projects that this chronic condition will rise to become the 7th leading cause of death in 2030. Because of this, a needle-free device for diabetes management is hugely attractive to health providers and patients. The team hopes to bring their device to the market within five years. 
 

Additional sources: Cardiff press release, BBC
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
DEC 05, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
DEC 05, 2019
Catching drug-resistant HIV mutants with next generation sequencing
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive individuals are treated with antiretroviral therapies to reduce the amount o ...
JAN 04, 2020
Immunology
JAN 04, 2020
Why Do Skincare Products Sometimes Cause Rashes?
Chemicals commonly found in skincare products are intended to avoid interactions with the part of the immune system resp ...
MAR 29, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
MAR 29, 2020
Biomarkers That Predict Crohn's Disease Are Identified
A series of studies published in Gastroenterology has outlined new approaches in predicting IBD.
APR 01, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
APR 01, 2020
One dollar kit diagnoses COVID-19 in 10 minutes
Researchers have begun efficacy testing for a new SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic kit that claims to be able to test for COVID-19 ...
MAR 30, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
MAR 30, 2020
Imaging Platform to Aid in Diagnosis of COVID-19
In the exponential growth of a rapidly spreading infectious disease, healthcare systems become overwhelmed, which can ha ...
MAY 21, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
MAY 21, 2020
Taking the Guesswork out of Fat Consumption
  When it comes to healthy eating, we often receive mixed messages. Low fat diets that have been popularized for de ...
Loading Comments...