It's appropriate to cry over new glucose monitor

Researchers at Arizona State University and the Mayo Clinic are a step closer to a blood glucose monitor that involves dabbing at tears instead of pricking fingers.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore

With some 26 million Americans living with diabetes (8.3 percent of the U.S. population), according to the American Diabetes Association, a lot of research is going into how to make blood glucose monitoring more effective and affordable.

The device features screen-printed electrical leads (A), an insulating layer (B), a silicone fluidics piece (C), a sensing well covering the three electrode system (D), and an absorbent sampling material (E). Diabetes Technology Society

Researchers at Arizona State University and the Mayo Clinic are partnering up to develop a monitor that enables people to dab their tear ducts instead of prick their fingers--which could be a big deal for those who currently draw blood as many as a dozen times a day to monitor their blood glucose levels.

"The problem with current self-monitoring blood glucose technologies is not so much the sensor, it's the painful finger prick," Jeffrey LaBelle, a bioengineer and chief designer, said in a news release. "This new technology might encourage patients to check their blood sugars more often, which could lead to better control of their diabetes by a simple touch to the eye."

The team reported on the first stage of their research on the sensor in Diabetes Science and Technology in March 2010, and quickly sparked interest from Arizona-based nonprofit BioAccel, which works to speed up the process of bringing biomedical technologies to the marketplace.

Using funding from BioAccel, the team is now compiling data to apply for human clinical trials of the device, but major challenges remain, including accuracy, efficiency, speed of performing the test, reproducible results, and of course making sure the test sample does not evaporate before it can be read.