Testing in the Future -Technology Meeting Showcases Noninvasive Blood-Glucose Monitoring

Who says the people who invent computers, cell phones and other devices that make our life easier should have all the fun?

Having diabetes is never easy. Today, however, thanks to a crop of innovators in the technology sector, the future of diabetes care appears to be as intriguing as sending letters over a computer or making a call from a wireless phone was a few decades back.

Leaders in the Field Get Together

An impressive lineup of distinguished leaders in the field of cutting-edge diabetes technology attended the inaugural Diabetes Technology Meeting. The event took place in San Francisco, California, in November 2001.

This article provides a sampling of the array of future technologies presented at the meeting.

Near-Infrared Spectroscopy

Mark Arnold, PhD, from the department of chemistry and optical science and the technology center at the University of Iowa, discussed the prospect of noninvasively measuring blood glucose using near-infrared spectroscopy (infrared). With this method, says Arnold, near-infrared radiation is passed through the skin and glucose readings are extracted.

Arnold discussed testing sites that might be possible using infrared, including the skin on the top of the hand and the septal cartilage, the wall that divides the nose into two nasal cavities.


Samir Mitragotri, PhD, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of California at Santa Barbara, spoke of the day when people with diabetes will be able to measure glucose levels through the use of ultrasound.

Mitragotri discussed the SonoPrep Transdermal Sampling System, manufactured by Sontra Medical, Inc., of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a firm he co-founded.

The SonoPrep device would be used once in the morning or once at night, with a sensor patch applied to the skin. The SonoPrep’s “interstitial fluid sampling patch may be integrated with biosensors to form a wearable meter such as a meter for the continuous monitoring of glucose,” according to Sontra.

Sontra predicts that the product will allow frequent self-monitoring of glucose levels, “reducing the inconvenience associated with conventional methods of finger lancing.”

Sontra says that its studies conducted on people with diabetes have demonstrated changes in the glucose concentration of interstitial fluid samples that mirror changes in blood-glucose concentration for at least 12 hours.

Glucose Sensing Goes Wireless

Kenneth Ward, MD, chief scientific officer of ISense Corp. of Portland, Oregon, discussed another real-time sensor that is only four times the size of a human hair.

The sensor, inserted just underneath the skin for five days, can display a glucose level on an electronic monitoring unit every minute. It also has a hypoglycemia alarm that, according to Ward, can be set 10 to 15 mg/dl higher than the person’s lowest desired blood-glucose reading to give an early warning of impending hypoglycemia.

The sensor is connected to a small box (the sensor module) that has some of the electrical circuitry necessary to amplify the tiny electrical current. Pressing a button on the module automatically withdraws the insertion needle into the housing of the module, thus avoiding the need for the person to handle medical sharps.

Ward says ISense has just finalized a grant from the National Medical Technology Testbed, Inc., at Loma Linda University that will help fund development of a wireless connection. He adds that ISense is getting ready to begin clinical trials with the sensor.

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