New patch points to bloodless diabetes monitoring

Supplementary content information

Close-up photo of diabetes monitoring patch

Researchers at the University of Bath have utilised graphene to create an adhesive patch which could be used to measure glucose levels of people with diabetes without having to take a painful finger-prick test.

The patch created by the team, who were supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Sir Halley Stewart Trust, draws glucose out from fluid between cells across hair follicles.

The follicles are individually accessed through an array of miniature sensors using a small electric current. Glucose is collected in tiny reservoirs and can then be measured.

The design allows readings to be taken every ten to 15 minutes over the course of several hours, and also does not require calibration with a blood sample, removing the requirement for a finger prick blood test.

The collaborative study between researchers at Bath's Physics, Pharmacy and Pharmacology and Chemistry Departments, which has been published in Nature Nanotechnology, has been widely reported in the media, with articles appearing in the Daily Mail, Daily Express and local press.

Professor Richard Guy, from the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, said: A non-invasive - that is, needle-less - method to monitor blood sugar has proven a difficult goal to attain. The closest that has been achieved has required either at least a single-point calibration with a classic 'finger-stick', or the implantation of a pre-calibrated sensor via a single needle insertion. The monitor developed at Bath promises a truly calibration-free approach, an essential contribution in the fight to combat the ever-increasing global incidence of diabetes.

Dr Adelina Ilie, from the Department of Physics, said: The specific architecture of our array permits calibration-free operation, and it has the further benefit of allowing realisation with a variety of materials in combination. We utilised graphene as one of the components as it brings important advantages: specifically, it is strong, conductive, flexible, and potentially low-cost and environmentally friendly. In addition, our design can be implemented using high-throughput fabrication techniques like screen printing, which we hope will ultimately support a disposable, widely affordable device.

In this study the team tested the patch on both pig skin, where they showed it could accurately track glucose levels across the range seen in diabetic human patients, and on healthy human volunteers, where again the patch was able to track blood sugar variations throughout the day.

The next steps include further refinement of the design of the patch to optimise the number of sensors in the array, to demonstrate full functionality over a 24-hour wear period, and to undertake a number of key clinical trials.

Reference: PN 19-18