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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
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 -
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...
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