Will High-Tech Skin Put an End to Needle Sticks for Diabetes?
Painful and inconvenient, needle sticks are part of daily life for many people with diabetes. Wouldn’t it be great if there were some high-tech wearable that could monitor blood glucose levels continuously and noninvasively — that is, without the need to pierce the skin?
We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer. The FDA just approved a skin patch with a small through-the-skin wire that delivers glucose readings wirelessly to a wand-like reader — but the patch must be replaced every 10 days. And researchers at MIT are doing very preliminary research on tattoos that change appearance to indicate changing glucose levels.
Now University of Chicago scientists have taken these ideas a step further. Working with rodents, they’ve endowed skin itself with the ability to track blood glucose and are at work on a system that could give at-a-glance insights into all kinds of blood values.
The team, led by cell biologist Dr. Xiaoyang Wu, used stem cells and the gene-editing technique CRISPR to create skin cells that emit fluorescent light in a particular pattern as blood glucose levels rise.
The light is invisible to the naked eye but can be detected by a tiny electronic sensor that might be embeddable in a wristwatch or bracelet.
A GENTLE HEADS-UP
If this preliminary research pans out, the skin sensor-and-device combination could make possible continuous, noninvasive monitoring of blood levels of cholesterol, sodium, iron, bilirubin, and liver and kidney enzymes as well as glucose.
A gentle vibration, ring, or flash would alert wearers when levels got out of whack — a Continue reading