NO BLOOD OR TEARS — JUST SWEAT
Diabetics must endure several daily, painful pinpricks to learn their glucose levels and monitor their blood sugar levels.
Dr. Shalini Prasad and her team of bioengineers at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) have developed a scientific workaround: a wearable sensor that measures glucose through tiny amounts
of human sweat.
“Fitness trackers that monitor heart rate and step count are very popular, but wearable, noninvasive biosensors would be extremely beneficial for managing diseases,” says Prasad, professor of bioengineering and department head at UTD.
To receive reliable glucose measurements, researchers designed the device to ensure low amounts of sweat could be used to “generate a strong enough signal,” as well as combat factors such as pH swings and varying acidity levels in sweat.
“Our modifications allow this material to entrap glucose oxidase molecules, which effectively amplifies the signal,” Prasad says. “We did it this way because we are thinking about possible commercialization — to make these, we need a fabrication process that is not complex.”
The amount of sweat measured amounts to less than three hundred-thousandths of an ounce.
“In our sensor mechanism, we use the same chemistry and enzymatic reactions that are incorporated into blood glucose testing strips,” Prasad says. “But in our design, we had to account for the low volume of ambient sweat that would be present in areas such as under a watch or wrist device or under a patch that lies next to the skin.”
The glucose monitoring technology is in the process of becoming commercially available; human subject testing is still ongoing, say UTD spokespeople.
This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.