Glucose 'Tattoo' could track blood sugar levels for diabetics

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This innovative kind of incessant glucose monitor relies on fluorescent nanoparticle ink injected under the skin to detect blood sugar levels with a watch-sized or smaller monitor worn over the skin, according to the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who are developing the original technology.

The glucose “tattoo” ink would be made from carbon nanotubes that can reflect infrared light back through the skin to the monitor, and this new device has the possibility to free people with diabetes from having to do frequent finger pricks each day or to modify a continuous glucose monitor device each three to seven days to keep track of their blood sugar levels.

Michael Strano, the Charles and Hilda Roddey associate professor of chemical  engineering at MIT explained that carbon nanotubes will fluoresce in infrared light, and they can embellish the tubes so they fluoresce in response to glucose. He also mentioned that when you shine a light on the nanotubes, they’ll shine light back at a diverse wavelength to a watch-type diode that could tell how much glucose is around. The actual monitor that’s worn over the skin would possibly be watch-sized or smaller, depending on the size of the batteries. If technology keeps shrinking at the current rate, it will most likely be smaller than a watch.

Presently, most people with type 1 diabetes have to prick their fingers up to a dozen times a day to assess their blood sugar levels. The latest technology — continuous glucose monitoring — involves introduction a small glucose sensor that’s implanted into the skin, and must be replaced every three to seven days. These devices as well must be calibrated daily using a finger stick at least several times a day. The biggest advantage these devices present is they let someone with diabetes know whether their blood sugar levels are trending up or down.

The reason this is important is that people with type 1 diabetes have to try to uphold as normal blood sugar levels as possible. If blood sugar levels go too low, the consequences of people with diabetes are dangerous, and they can go into a coma, and can even die if they don’t do something to raise their blood sugar levels. And, if blood sugar levels are too high, many areas in the body, including the eyes, kidneys and the heart, can be damaged.

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