Type 1 diabetes is a difficult condition, which requires a lot of effort to manage from the patient. People need to continuously monitor their blood sugar levels and correct them. This often involves finger pricking, which is uncomfortable at best and often tiringly painful. But now scientists at the University of Waterloo are developing a much better solution.
Continuous monitoring devices for glucose have been available for some time now and they do not require constant pricking. However, these devices did not eliminate finger pricks entirely for people with type 1 diabetes.
Finger pricks or urine tests are still needed to determine the level of ketone bodies. High ketone levels can lead to death and are caused by the body (more accurately – liver) processing fat into fuel. Excess levels of ketone can cause the blood to become acidic, triggering a range of possible complications, including diabetic coma, stroke, heart attack, blindness and death.
Monitoring ketone levels is very important for type 1 diabetes patients, but finger pricks and urine test strips are still not very convenient to use. And that’s why scientists are developing patches that could send crucial readings to patients’ smartphones.
Jonathan Rosen, one of the scientists in this project, said: “Devices that continuously measure ketones, as well as glucose, will allow people with type 1 diabetes to know when a DKA event is coming so they can take action to avoid it. “
This patch is currently under development and it will be several years till it’s complete. It is quite a challenging task, because a small (current aim – less than a centimetre square) device needs to be able to take the readings of blood glucose and ketone levels and transmit them wirelessly to a smartphone device.
The patch will use hydrogel microneedles and should cause no pain or discomfort. It will measure diabetes-relevant parameters in fluid just under the surface of the skin – penetration will be way shallower than what normal finger pricks do. It should also be quite discrete, to allow people to live their normal lives while wearing such devices. Scientists believe a device like that can improve people’s quality of life as well as save lives by preventing complications of high ketone level.
Currently there is no cure for type 1 diabetes. It might be on the horizon, but so far scientists have not been able to completely remove this condition. However, we can improve its management, which will result in huge improvements in the quality of life and long-term health.
Source: University of Waterloo