Nanosensors bring diabetics closer to a life without needles

Diabetics may soon be able to focus on tissue fluids such as sweat or tears rather than blood when checking blood glucose levels. Recently developed biosensor technology in nano-form from Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems (IMS) is offering the chance of a non-invasive approach via digital biometric analysis that can be radioed to a mobile device.

With the ability to continuously measure glucose levels using tissue fluids including sweat or tears rather than blood, this technology could serve as relief to patients with the desire to stop sticking themselves with sharp needles as part of their daily routine. This announcement adds to a string of news offering the promise of a needle-free life for diabetics. In August, research from Purdue University's Birck Nanotechnology Center and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory discussed a new material for glucose monitoring can detect minute levels from saliva, tears and urine. What's more, in July 2011, researchers from Northeastern University in Boston announced an iPhone add-on using LED lighting and nanosensors that could help detect the presence of the compound in a patient's bloodstream.

Researchers from the Duisburg, Germany-based IMS stated breakthroughs in size and technological advancement circumvent the previous hurdles of cumbersome technology.

The principle measurement to calculate the glucose level employs an electrochemical reaction activated with the aid of an enzyme. Measured using a potentiostat, glucose oxidase converts the glucose into hydrogen peroxide among other chemicals. Sizing in at 0.5 x 2.0 millimeters, the biosensor chip includes the nanopotentiostat, as well as the entire diagnostic system, according to the Fraunhofer researchers.

"It even has an integrated analog digital converter that converts the electrochemical signals into digital data," Tom Zimmermann, business unit manager at IMS, said in the announcement.

In addition to size and analysis improvements, IMS stated that the sensors currently operate at less than 100 microamperes at five volts, an improvement over earlier systems consuming about 500 microamperes. According to the researchers, the decrease in power consumption can allow a patient to wear the sensor for weeks, or even months.

For more information:
- read the announcement

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