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Nanotechnology tackles problems with noninvasive glucose monitoring
4 May 2016 • Author(s): Andreas Thomas, Medtronic GmbH / Araceli Ramírez and Alfred Zehe, Universidad Autónoma de Puebla
For diabetes mellitus patients who treat themselves with insulin, the need to self-monitor blood glucose in order to establish their insulin dose is a major burden, and highlights the need to develop non-invasive glucose measurement technologies. Up until now, such non-invasive systems that also have adequate measurement performance under daily life conditions have not been available. However, nanotechnology has the potential to provide a solution.
Traversing all scientific disciplines its nanoscale nature means that new functionalities and properties of materials can be created, which contribute to the development of innovative products and applications. Nanomedicine extends from the medical applications of nanomaterials to nanoelectronic biosensors, and there are even possible future applications of molecular nanotechnology. Indeed, nanoparticles’ use in medicine is leaping ahead. For example, both organic and inorganic artificial nanoscale materials may be introduced into the human body and assigned diagnostic functions1,2.
Introduction to diabetes
Diabetes is one of the most prevalent diseases in the world. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), in 2015 415 million people suffered from the illness worldwide, which equates to one in eleven adults3 . And numbers continue to climb; in 2040 642 million people are anticipated to be diabetic. An important aspect of good diabetic control and successful management of the disease is the control of glucose levels, and self-monitoring blood glucose is the established method for assessing glycaemic control. Patients typically self-monitor four to six times a day in order to adapt their insulin dose to their food intake and levels of physical activity, as well as to correct for non-physiological glycaemic excursions. Since 2003 the method of continuous glucose monitoring has been available, but it is not widely established. Although it was designed to significantly reduce the necessary quantity of blood required, and lead to simpler device handling, the underlying process can still be painful. Consequently, patients desire a minimal or non-invasive measuring method.
In principle, non-invasive glucose monitoring is possible. The basis for this is the interaction of glucose molecules with applied energy (radiation, heat and electromagnetic fields, among others). A number of physical principles can be used; for example, light absorption, light scattering, polarisation of light, fluorescence, Raman scattering, and photoacoustic and impedance measurement. No sample material is required, since the applied energy field constitutes directly the measurement probe in a volume of tissue. Scientific studies have already been carried out for each of these methods4-12. However, for the measurement of glucose in a certain tissue volume, a specific interaction of the glucose molecules with the applied energy needs to take place. This is difficult because the concentration of glucose in the human body is relatively low with levels in the parts-per thousand range. Therefore, glucose signals are weak in comparison to other endogenous substances, such as water or albumin, which prevail in much higher concentrations…
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