Diabetes sweat sensor patch developed – ingenious use of graphene
Scientists from South Korea have developed a graphene-based sensor for diabetes which can monitor levels of blood sugar through sweat analysis. It requires only minute amounts of perspiration fluid to perform a measurement. The instruments that can be made incorporating this method would be non-invasive and small. The procedure is painless and the monitoring can be continuous instead of punctual.
Another paper has been published dealing with the practical application of transdermal drug delivery combined with the analysis obtained through this sensory equipment.
The paper which originally discussed the graphene-tech skin patches is available online, and since it was published, the scientific community has suggested a major potential for upgrades. The original concept-oriented paper was published in Nature magazine a year ago. The follow-up study dealing with transdermal drug delivery was published 3 days ago in Science Advances.
The Seoul University researchers have integrated three blood sugar level sensors, four acidity sensors and a humidity sensor to tell how much sweat there is. Only a microliter of fluid (sweat) is enough to trigger an accurate measurement. In mice studies, the sensors have shown a good level of accuracy. the following research has resulted in a microneedle equipped patch that is able to administer doses of medication.
This non-invasive method is suggested to replace the “painful blood collection” which is required in diabetes patients. These instruments are being developed more rapidly than ever, and this year has also seen talk of a flu-detecting breathalyzer. The movement toward non-invasive precision monitoring and remote methods of sensing are advancing at an exciting rate.
The experiments on graphene have been a major driving force in this direction. Graphene is a strong, conductive, optically transparent and flexible material with many potential uses in micro- and macro-electronics. However, synthesizing structurally homogeneous with consistent properties through standard chemical vapor deposition limits its usefulness. The scientists at Seoul University have ameliorated this issue by doping the compound with gold.
“Graphene biochemical sensors with solid-state Ag/AgCl counter electrodes show enhanced electrochemical activity, sensitivity and selectivity in detecting important bio-markers contained in human sweat.”
This “serpentine bilayer of gold” helps form a stable electrochemical signal for sensory equipment. This is important because processing the signal into valuable and accurate datasets is the cornerstone of accurate measurement and future standardization. The accurate measurement problem was more expressive because sweat sugar levels are much lower than blood sugar and harder to detect with a low error factor.
Type 1 diabetes has roots from the immune system’s aggressiveness toward the part of the body which regulates blood sugar. Type 2 is often caused by a damaging lifestyle which interferes with the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels. Both can be monitored through one of these devices and since its porous casing is flexible, it can move with the skin and not get in the way of most daily chores.The gathered data is then processed via a portable computer which calculates the sugar levels.
The next steps are oriented towards optimization and long-term commercialization which is a step that most exciting new tech fails until the industry, market and environment catch up with science. Since the potential for this is a medical device, strict standards have to be enforced so that the device is reliable for medical practice especially if there will be medication administering devices on the market.