by Karyn Michelle Wofford
If you ask a diabetic what they find to be most difficult about the disease, many would tell you blood sugar monitoring and injection pain. Although super thin needles and continuous glucose monitors have been a tremendous help, researchers at Seoul National University in Korea are developing something even better.
What is it?
It is a wrist band, a very complex one that can detect blood glucose levels painlessly, via the patient’s sweat. Sensors have the ability to detect “sweat glucose” just as accurately as your current meter detects blood glucose. If sensors detect high levels of sugar, it will release the typically type 2 diabetic drug, Metformin, through small needles. Researchers are working on a solution for insulin delivery as well, but the proteins in insulin are large and would have difficulty traveling through microneedles. A heating process is also necessary with medication delivery through the band, and this could damage the insulin.
How could it help diabetics?
#1 – Peace of mind. I don’t know about you, but I get a little panicked, especially at night, wondering if my blood sugar will drop dangerously low. The band gives the same comfort as a continuous glucose monitor, but seems like it would stay on better. Say goodbye to taping bulky transmitters down with 20 Tegaderms, or medical tape…only to have it fall off in the shower anyway! I will never believe that those things are really water proof!
#2 – Reduced infection risk. It is simple math, less pokes, less chance of infection. Being that the glucose testing method is needle free, that eliminates a lot of chances for bacteria to enter into the skin.
#3 – Accuracy. Having your glucose constantly monitored is the way to go. Always knowing your numbers allows you to administer the correct amount of medication. If we get to the point where the device can administer type 1 and type 2 meds, we would probably have a lot less dosage mistakes. Technology can malfunction too, but the likelihood may be less.
#4 – Less gadgets hanging off of your body. From the picture, the device looks pretty simple and thin. The band could potentially eliminate the need for bulky glucose monitors, syringes, pens and pumps. Sweet freedom.
#5 – Decreased amount of pain. Diabetics definitely become numb to it, but I still cannot get used to inserting a CGM sensor…ouch. And let’s not forget those once in a blue moon, freakish injections that feel like a bee sting. Researchers emphasize that the microneedles do not even reach nerve endings, making the medication delivery method pretty much painless.
What are the negatives?
Well the biggest one is that the reality of having one of these things on your wrist is about 5 years away. It will also be pricey, possibly making it an unrealistic item for a type 2 diabetics, since it is often not required for them to have a constant feed of glucose numbers. Basically, insurance may not cover it. Since the product cannot yet deliver insulin, to a type 1 it will just be a super fancy CGM. But hey, I’ll take it.
It is a huge stride though!
Experts say a variation of the device may hit the market sooner, but will only test sweat glucose rather than inject medication too. Again, that is not bad. I would love to skip out on sensor insertion!
Diabetes care is definitely progressing and I think we will continue to see great development in care. Perhaps a cure may come down the line soon.