Scientists develop diabetes wearable to monitor blood sugar levels
Scientists develop diabetes wearable to monitor blood sugar levels

Scientists develop diabetes wearable to monitor blood sugar levels

A team of scientists are working on a diabetes tracking wearable device

Scientists from the Centre for Nanoparticle Research at South Korea’s Institute for Basic Science have developed a wearable patch that accurately monitors glucose levels in diabetics and administers insulin treatment when required via micro-needles. Researchers hope this combination of automatic monitoring and injections will help diabetics more effectively regulate blood glucose fluctuations.

In order to keep track of blood sugar levels, diabetes sufferers need to prick themselves several times a day to take small samples of blood for testing. They also require regular injections of insulin to keep blood sugar levels at a safe level. It’s a full-time condition which requires constant vigilance, as regular rises in sugar levels in the blood over time can increase the risk of developing long-term complications. This relentless cycle of pricking and injecting, while not especially painful, can be tedious enough to become a chore for many; an issue that can lead to dangerous lapses.

Also read: Healthcare clinicians are ready for IoT – are patients?

IoT wearable provides non-invasive monitoring and treatment

The result of research from the group of international scientists led by Dae-Hyeong is a patch that can both monitor blood glucose levels through sweat and deliver insulin in a non-invasive manner. The team’s work was published in Nature Nanotechnology earlier this week.

The base of the patch is made up of gold-doped graphene, a strong and flexible material commonly used in wearable devices. The device captures sweat from the person’s skin, and sensors within the patch pick up on the sweat’s pH level and temperature changes; indicators of a high glucose level. Once high sugar levels are recognised, built-in heaters in the patch dissolve a layer of coating, exposing microneedles that release a drug called metformin that can regulate and reduce high blood sugar levels. Blood sugar readings are also wirelessly transmitted to a mobile device so that long term trends are simple to read and monitor.

Speaking with Newsmax, Dr Joel Zonszein, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, said the cost of the partially gold device will be an initial barrier.

However, he said: “They have proved the concept — that a sweat patch can do the monitoring and can deliver a drug transdermally [through the skin]. Trying to do something like this noninvasively really is the holy grail of diabetes. So, there may be a future for this, but there are many barriers to be overcome”.

There are several potential benefits of using IoT wearables for the treatment of diabetes.

Speaking exclusively to Internet of Business, Collette Johnson, director of medical at Plextek Consulting, said: “This is a real game-changer for type two diabetes, as unlike type one, the disease fluctuates and tends to affect people later in life. Adjusting to a new medical regime and diet can be difficult, but with intelligent monitoring it can help reduce complications in the long-term, which in turn reduces the cost of treatment and allows people more freedom.”

More widely, IoT technology stands to make a significant impact across the medical industry.

Johnson said: “IoT will have an enormous impact on healthcare, as it will allow patients to be treated in their homes but with an additional level of mobility due to its interfacing with smart city networks. IoT technology could provide confidence to sufferers of a range of conditions, offering “freedom and opportunities to patients that traditionally feel constrained to their home due to their illness.”

Also read: Wearables could be used to reduce drug cravings