Smart Inks Monitor Glucose

SAN FRANCISCO — Researchers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) are working toward a holy grail of sensor technology – non-invasive glucose testing. A team at the university’s Jacobs School of Engineering developed bio-compatible inks that react with several chemicals, including glucose, to create temporary sensors.

Glucose monitoring has become a favorite project among sensor and biotech researchers as the number of Type 2 diabetes diagnoses doubled between 1980 and 2011. San Francisco NPR affiliate KQED reported that the glucose self-monitoring market is currently worth $8 billion.

UCSD filled off-the-shelf ballpoint pens with the inks that use graphite for conductivity and enzymes for glucose. Then they drew those inks onto a thin conductive sticker on the skin. The sticker with ink is connected to two electrodes that apply a mild voltage to measure the current that is sent to a Bluetooth enabled armband that communicates with a mobile device.

While this may seem like a complex system for the average diabetes patient, grad student Amay Bandodkar said current glucose monitoring systems are painful and expensive. If a diabetic must prick their finger four or five times a day, and each test strip costs $1, the monitoring costs can quickly get out of hand.

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