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Thursday February 1 3:18 PM ET
Researchers Develop Dual Glucose-Insulin Sensor 

By Kirell Lakhman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Researchers in New Mexico have developed an 
implantable sensor that can simultaneously monitor glucose and insulin levels 
in the blood to help patients with diabetes better manage their disease.

Diabetics already use chemical strips that rely on drops of blood or urine to 
monitor glucose levels, and even sophisticated implants that track the amount 
of insulin in the blood to help anticipate changes in glucose levels. But 
until now, there has not been a device that could perform both functions.

Dr. Joseph Wang and a team of scientists at the University of New Mexico in 
Las Cruces used electrochemistry and computer technology to integrate these 
two concepts into a device that can gather both kinds of data through one 
small, implantable needle that operates as a sensor.

To develop the sensor, Wang filled a needle about the size of a hypodermic 
needle with two tiny lengths of tubing that collect electrochemical data on 
glucose and insulin levels and transfer it to a computer. All of this happens 
in real time, while the device is implanted, the researchers report in the 
February 15th issue of Analytical Chemistry.

Although the sensor is still in very early stages--the needle was tested 
while hooked up to a machine that simulates fluctuating levels of glucose and 
insulin production--Wang believes it may become the standard of care for 
patients with diabetes.

``The trend is to replace the widely used glucose-monitoring strip with 
implantable devices,'' Wang said in an interview with Reuters Health. ``It is 
very important for patients to be able to measure the ratio between the 
insulin and blood, and help them manage their diabetes better.''

Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar (glucose) levels. Without 
the hormone, blood sugar can rise to levels high enough to put patients into 
a coma.

To combat these imbalances, patients are prescribed insulin either as a pill 
or via an implantable sensor and pump that monitors the level of glucose in 
the blood and, when that level climbs too high, injects a prescribed amount 
of insulin directly in the skin.

There are more than 15 million people in the US who have diabetes, and 
another 800,000 are diagnosed with the disease each year, according to the 
American Diabetes Association. Roughly 95% have type 2 diabetes, which means 
that they produce inadequate or inconsistent amounts of insulin. People with 
type 1 diabetes, by comparison, do not generate insulin at all.

Wang said that although he hopes to launch clinical trials of the device next 
summer, he stressed that he and his team have a long way to go. ``We must 
first make the device biocompatible, scale it down and make the needle 
smaller, and improve the electronics,'' he said in the interview.

Ultimately, Wang foresees a device that costs between $25 and $30 and is 
implanted for 3 to 4 days and then replaced. Although he said that he has not 
yet been approached by pharmaceutical companies interested in sponsoring his 
device, potential investors might include Abbott, Biovail, Roche and Johnson 
& Johnson. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (news - 
web sites).

SOURCE: Analytical Chemistry February 2001. 

Did I read 'implantable for 3 or 4 days'? And then must I return to 
Outpatient Surgery for a new implant? I don't think soooooooo...
 Gil Linkswiler
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