Diabetes Awareness-New Technology on The Horizon
Understanding A Disease
Understanding a disease is not as easy as it may seem if you are not directly effected with it in someway. I do not have diabetes, but a person very close to me does. I have made it a personal mission to understand as best I can and be supportive. Reading information is not nearly the same thing as being diagnosed withType 1 Diabetes, but being involved and learning new things can never hurt when it comes to people you love.
What Should My Blood Sugar Levels Be?
For most people, on average....
On waking up for breakfast - 80 to 120
Before meals - 80 to120
2 hours after meals - 160 or less
at bedtime - 100-140
Blood Testing-A Pain That Pains
Testing blood glucose levels, or blood sugar, is a major issue when it comes to Diabetics. Levels must be monitored to make sure it doesn't drop below or go above average. One of the main ways this is done is with meters.
Meters have progressed slowly over the years but still keep the same design; they test the blood to check the levels of glucose. Usually the normal way of doing this is by pricking a fingertip to get an adequate amount of blood for testing. The ways of doing this have progressed and now some meters that are on the market can test on your arm in a less painful area. Requiring less blood, therefore less pain.
Other advancements that have been include the items used for testing. The original device used to prick the skin, the lancet, was given an upgrade in 1998 when the FDA approved the first in-home Laser called the Lasette. It's a portable, battery-operated laser that pricks the skin as easily and accurately as lancets. It is only available through prescription and your doctor is required to give you information on how to use it. It's sold by Cell Robotics of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
New Methods of Monitoring
New methods are being developed everyday to help ease the pain of endless finger-pricking and monitoring. Two of these methods that are being developed are more of a permanent solution to this problem. Not expected to be out on the market for a while, but are still in the developmental stages are Tattoos and tiny beads implanted under the skin.
Currently under development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this new system is being tested. A special ink that contains carbon nanotubes, or nanoparticles, is injected under the skin. This ink reflects infrared light back through the skin to a monitor that is worn externally. Blood sugar is then monitored on the device, which is about the size of a wristwatch.
"Depending on the wave length reflected back from the carbon nanotubes, the person gets a reading on the blood sugar," explains Spyros Mezitis, MD, Ph.D., attending endocrinologist and clinical investigator at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "The technology must go through FDA approval before it is available."
The tattoo would be about the size of a dime, and would be much more convenient to use then a glucose monitor which must be changed every 4 to 7 days. The Glucose tattoo is still in its infant stages and going through extensive testing to see about hopefully launching this idea sometime in the future.
"Some areas of the skin may be more accurate for taking a reading," he says. "And how often would the ink need to be injected still needs to be determined. But the big advantage is that it would free the diabetic from blood sugar testing."
In Hong Kong, Japanese researchers are working on a blood glucose monitoring system that requires less painful ways of monitoring your BGL.
"Laced with diboronic acid and certain hydrocarbons, the beads glow when they pick up glucose floating in the blood, the scientists reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences "
The fluorescent microbeads are injectible, and minimally invasive. Testing is being done on implanting these beads in mice currently. This kind of technology along with the the Glucose Tattoos may not be be in the near future, but will definitely be something to keep on the look out for in the years to come.
"Because the fluorescent microbeads do not require external links or power sources to provide a readout, they could be used to fabricate minimally invasive glucose sensors for people who need to continuously monitor their blood glucose levels," they wrote.
Other Technology In The Works
MIT is working on a Glucose Meter that checks Blood glucose levels with infrared light. The Raman Spectroscope Glucose Meter reads by shining near-infrared light on a persons arm or finger and using the ensuing vibrations put off by the chemical bonds in various molecules in the skin to measure the amount of glucose present. So far this method works but only to a degree. The light only penetrates about a millimeter into the skin meaning glucose readings are actually measuring the amount of sugar in the interstitial fluid surrounding skin cells instead of the levels in the bloodstream.
The Raman Spectroscope still needs work, but it is a huge step forward. They are on their way to solving a problem that has persisted for many years with little progress. MIT plans to get a clinical trial started on healthy patients soon if things go well.
What's Out There Now...
Finding new ways to help monitor Diabetes is a main concern while no known cure is available for the time being. While new technology is being looked into, the cost for peace of mind is financially a burden to most. Insurance companies won't usually accept to insure new people with pre-existing conditions such as Diabetes. This means sky-rocketing prices on meters, test strips, and medicine all coming out of pocket for a diabetic.
Finding a good meter that fits with your life is important; making sure that meter also fits in your price range is as well. Testing is an important part of everyday life for a diabetic. Hopefully in the future it will become a less painful, and less frequent process.