On The Horizon: A Better Way To Measure Blood Glucose

Researchers have developed a method for measuring glucose concentrations in saliva, and they say it would be a significant improvement in managing diabetes.

The scientists, from Brown University, devised a new biochip sensor that measures blood sugar levels in saliva rather than blood. The daily drawing of blood can be a painful process.

The new chip is sensitive enough to detect differences in glucose concentrations that amount to just a few thousand molecules in the sampled volume.

“We have demonstrated the sensitivity needed to measure glucose concentrations typical in saliva, which are typically 100 times lower than in blood,” said Domenico Pacifici, assistant professor of engineering at Brown, who led the research. “Now we are able to do this with extremely high specificity, which means that we can differentiate glucose from the background components of saliva.”

The findings were published in the journal Nanophotonics.

Researchers made the biochip from a one-inch-square piece of quarts coated with a thin layer of silver. The device can be adjusted to detect the presence of compounds or molecules, with high sensitivity for extremely small samples. The chip’s grooves, used to detect the level of glucose, are about 1,000 times thinner than a human hair.

The next step in the work, Pacifici says, is to start testing the method in real human saliva. Ultimately, the researchers hope they can develop a device that could give diabetics a noninvasive way to monitor their glucose levels.

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