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Diabetes is considered a global epidemic, which once diagnosed, takes a tremendous toll on a person’s quality of life. According to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the total number of people with diabetes is anticipated to increase to 366 million by 2030, while the WHO forebodes that diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death in 2030.

Living with diabetes means constant monitoring of body’s blood-glucose levels to avoid diabetes-related complications. Generally, this monitoring is performed by frequent blood tests, finger pricks before or after a meal, or in more severe cases by taking daily insulin injections. All these methods are rather painful and require constant vigilance as missing out on a single dose, or any miscalculations in the monitoring could drastically affect the person’s health. To avoid the potential risks and complications associated with these monitoring devices, scientists are trying to develop safer and efficient diabetes management techniques.

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A recent breakthrough in their quest to develop pain-free and manageable diabetes monitoring devices is the introduction of pain-free diabetes skin patch. Researchers at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) have developed a skin patch equipped with mineralized compounds that interact in the bloodstream to regulate blood sugar for a sufficient period of time. According to NIBIB scientific director, Richard Leapman, “This experimental approach could be a way to take advantage of the fact that persons with type 2 diabetes can still produce some insulin,“.  Pointing out the potential scope of these patches in diabetes care and management, he further went on to add that, “A weekly micro-needle patch application would also be less complicated and painful than routines that require frequent blood testing.”

So how exactly do these patches monitor the blood-glucose levels?

  • Firstly, the skin patch is stuck on the patient’s arm, abdomen or leg
  • It then takes a sensor measurement of body’s interstitial fluids which contains water, solutes, electrolytes, sugars, salts, hormones, neurotransmitters, etc.
  • Through a rechargeable transmitter, the data is transmitted via Bluetooth to a pre-downloaded app for the user to view on his smart

A new prototype developed by Dae-Hyeong Kim, a research scientist at the flexible electronics company, MC10, at Lexington, Massachusetts and assistant professor at Seoul National University, helps in detection as well as drug delivery. The advantages of this patch were also mentioned in a paper of Nature Nanotechnology. “This is the first closed-loop epidermal system that has both monitoring and the noninvasive delivery of diabetes drugs directly to the subject,” said Roozbeh Ghaffari, a co-founder of MC10.

Although the technology is relatively new and has not yet reached the masses, it is safe to say that pain-free diabetes skin patches are indeed the next step for diabetes care and management, assuring an affordable and painless approach for blood-glucose monitoring.

Jui Pande

Author: Jui Pande

Sr. Content Writer and Editor, Inkwood Research

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