Needle-Free Diabetes Monitor Shows Promise

needle free diabetes monitorAmong the supplies for diabetes that are both the most in demand and the most frustrating for many diabetics are the parts of their blood glucose monitoring kits; after all, depending on which system a patient uses, they may have to frequently purchase accuchek lancets, or true track test strips, breeze 2 test strips or other small pieces to ensure that they are able to test multiple times per day, as their doctor recommends. Because of the inconvenience, pain, and added cost of blood-glucose monitoring using blood sampling, many companies have been working to find a system that will be more comfortable for diabetics to use to monitor their blood sugar levels. A recent innovation, a Breathalyzer-style, needle-free model, has shown promise in recent tests—though it is still a way off from coming to market.

The hand-held device is designed to measure levels of the chemical acetone in someone’s breath; acetone levels typically rise when blood sugar does, giving a distinctive fruity-sweet smell to the breath of people with diabetes who are experiencing high blood sugar. It hasn’t been proven that blood sugar levels reliably rise and fall with acetone levels, which is one issue that the new device will be pitted against. Ronny Priefer, a professor of medicinal chemistry at Western New England University working on the tests, says, “If we can successfully show that there is a linear correlation between acetone levels and blood glucose levels, the ways of which an individual with diabetes can monitor their disease state should be dramatically simplified.” If the device is successful and cost-effective, it could mean that many diabetics will never have to purchase items such as accuchek lancets, or true track strips, breeze 2 test strips or other similar supplies for diabetes. It may also mean a better adherence to glucose testing, Priefer points out.

At the moment, the device is about the size of a book; the researchers are working to make the device smaller so that it is closer to what the police use to check blood alcohol levels. The system uses layers of a film that react with acetone to quantify the amount present in breath samples. The researchers have two clinical trials planned for next year to see if the levels of acetone have a linear relationship with blood sugar levels. There is an expectation among the researchers that certain foods will affect readings, and that environmental acetone may also be an issue that they have to tackle in developing the tool they have in mind. Priefer said of the ongoing project, “The ultimate goal is to replace the finger prick.” While many individuals with diabetes rapidly become accustomed to the practice of using a lancet to prick themselves and collect a blood sample to test, it is—admittedly—a less-than-comfortable experience, and in the case of many younger patients, the prospect of even the small amount of pain involved in collecting a blood sample multiple times per day can result in a lack of adherence. If research and refinement make it possible for diabetics to replace their purchases of accuchek lancets, true track strips, or breeze 2 test strips in favor of a handheld device that they can breathe into to get a result, it will be a major leap forward in diabetes care

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