A Pain-Free Blood Sugar Test Is Being Developed
Arguably one of the most-hated aspects of being diabetic (aside from the long-term implications) are the constant blood-sugar tests. Sadly, the test is a medical necessity. One which helps people with diabetes to understand where there current bloody sugar level is at. Once they know this, they can counteract it with the right level of insulin or grab a snack to give them a boost. However, scientists in Australia may be creating a pain-free alternative to the standard blood sugar test.
The “Holy Grail” of Blood Sugar Test Options
Generally speaking, the most accurate and quickest way for diabetics to test their blood sugar is through the finger prick. However, this can be uncomfortable. Especially if you have a fear of needles. And particularly for those who need to undertake the test multiple times a day.
For nervous people with diabetes, the worry is that they will try to avoid these. And, by minimising their tests, dangerous levels of blood sugar may go unnoticed. Until it’s too late. Similarly, those with dementia or other long-term comorbidities may struggle to remember to test themselves. Even suffering with an increase in stress levels, in some cases.
Excitingly, though, a group of scientists from Australia state that they are creating a new alternative. Indeed, they are working on a non-invasive option. Which, understandably, is much more comfortable for individuals with diabetes. Instead, the strip tests for glucose levels through saliva.
How Does The New Test Work?
The Professor of Physics, Paul Dastoor, at the University of Newcastle in Australia, is currently leading the team. The test itself is being made with comfort in mind. As such, it works by “embedding an enzyme that detects glucose into a transistor that can then transmit the presence of glucose.” In other words, the test is made from a metallic ink, which includes electronic materials. This ink can then register and transmit data, quickly and easily.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Dastoor says ““Your saliva has glucose in it and that glucose concentration follows your blood glucose. But it is a concentration about 100 times lower. Which means that we had to develop a test that is low cost and easy to manufacture. But that has sensitivity about 100 times higher than standard glucose blood test.”
Because the tests are effectively printed out, the creation of these are incredibly cheap. So, no only is the process of getting the glucose levels from individuals much less painful – it’s easier on the bank balance, too. This is amazing news for people on low-income. And, at the same time, a great benefit to those in poorer countries, with restrictive healthcare.
A Blood Sugar Test Made By Accident
Interestingly, the test was actually made by accident. The team came across the ability to craft a new piece of tech, while working on solar cells. However, the breakthrough allowed the team to gain access to funding. Therefore securing around A$6.3 million (£3.38 million), and therefore being able to build a standalone facility. A facility in which the team will be able to produce test kits, going forward. Providing that the clinical trials are passed, of course.
Dastoor also suggest that the technology could also be transferred to COVID-19 testing. As well as allowing for allergen, hormone and cancer testing. If this proves to be true, it could change the way we see tests forever. Non-invasive cancer screening and hormone testing means everyone will be more likely to undergo tests. And the increase in participants means many lives can and will be save.
The university is already working with Harvard University on a test for COVID-19 using same technology. But it’s the implications for other testing that has the physicist excited about the potential for the sensors.
“I think its going to radically change the way we think about medical devices and in particular sensors because we can print these at remarkably low cost,” said Dastoor.