Wearable Biosensor for Diabetics: Nanotech News

Wearable, prick-free blood sugar biosensor tech is here. Researchers at the Fraunhofer-Institut say its tiny, low-powered device is revolutionary. Here’s how it works.

If you’ve got type 1 diabetes, you’ve got to be tired of pricking your skin for daily blood sugar tests. Enter the wearable biosensor.

Biosensor for diabetes levels under the eye.

Image: Fraunhofer-Institut

According to researchers at the Fraunhofer-Institut, this new wearable biosensor will help diabetics keep a less painful eye on their blood sugar levels. Minus the blood.

Diabetes test

Pricking a finger used to be the only way to check blood sugar levels, though nowadays modern glucose meters let you prick other areas of the body, too. But pricking yourself for blood every day is not comfortable. And it sometimes will cause inflammation or cornification of the skin.

And for pain-sensitive patients, the procedure is agonizing.

The wearable biosensor from the Frauenhofer Institute will let you skip the pricking. It measures glucose levels continuously using tissue fluids other than blood, such as sweat or tears. Until now, the only other way to measure blood glucose levels without pricking has been to implant a continuous glucose monitor (CGM).

This determines glucose levels on a continuous basis (every few minutes). Such a system typically involves a disposable glucose sensor placed just under the skin,  a link from the sensor to a non-implanted transmitter which communicates to a radio receiver and an electronic receiver worn like a pager (or insulin pump) that displays glucose levels with nearly continuous updates. It also monitors rising and falling trends over time.

But CGMs are expensive. Health insurance plans don’t usually cover them. And they’re not terribly accurate.

Some new technologies to monitor blood glucose levels that don’t require access to blood include near IR detection, ultrasound and dielectric spectroscopy. Unfortunately, none of these have been developed with small enough sizes to be comfortable for patients.

That’s why this latest development from Fraunhofer Institute researchers — it’s the same research lab that brought us the MP3 format — is such a breakthrough. They developed a biosensor in nano-form that is precise and consumes little power.

The new biosensor is based on an electrochemical reaction activated with the help of an enzyme.

The enzyme, glucose oxidase, converts glucose into hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and other chemicals so that a potentiostat is able to measure it.  This measurement is important for calculating the necessary glucose level.

It’s the size, really, that makes this biosensor so special. At just 0.5 x 2.0, they system includes not just the nano-potentiostat, but also the entire diagnostic system.

The biosensor transmits data over WiFi to a mobile receiver. The patient then is able to continuously monitor his or her glucose level.

But size isn’t its only advantage. Low power consumption is a pivotal feature, too. Especially when you consider that previous systems required about 500 microamperes at five volts. This Fraunhofer technology consumes less than 100 microamperes, researchers say.

Low power requirements means the system lasts longer — the system is wearable for weeks or months.

The sensor sends and receives data packages, it lets you wirelessly recharge it, too.

The glucose sensor was engineered by researchers at Noviosens, a Dutch medical technology firm. It can be manufactured cost-effectively and will soon go into mass production.

The biosensor may also become the platform for an implanted miniature pump that, based on the glucose value measured, administers the precise amount of insulin.

For aNewDomain.net, I’m Erik Vlietinck.



  • So cool to see something like this in tech being mentioned. Instead of map issues. :)

    -RAP, II

  • When is this due to be released has it had all the regulatory approvals? If already done then this will be incredible advancement for diabetes care.

  • How do I get 2 of them for my 2 children? Nice to see that there are some advances for this condition.