One of the challenges – and frustrations – of living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) is multiple finger sticks each day to test blood sugar levels. Individuals want to ensure that they are staying on top of blood sugar in order to administer insulin or glucose as needed. Even continuous glucose monitors require a tiny needle stick in order to monitor blood sugar levels.
In a recent study, researchers share advancements using laser technology, rather than blood samples, in order to measure glucose concentration. The device they developed uses Raman spectroscopy, which shines near-infrared light on the skin to determine its chemical composition. This includes reading the signal given off by glucose located in the interstitial fluid that surrounds skin cells.
The near-infrared light only has the ability to penetrate a few millimeters into the skin, so researchers needed to find a reliable way to measure glucose from this reading. Initially, they were comparing the chemical composition of the tissue with blood samples taken simultaneously to determine glucose levels. However, there was too much unpredictability since movement of the patient or changes in the environment could alter results. In addition, it required a great deal of calibration.
The Laser Biomedical Research Center at MIT has spent more than 20 years working on developing a glucose sensor using Raman spectroscopy, and they have made a lot of advancements over the years. The latest device has evolved from indirect measurement of glucose concentrations, like those mentioned above, to direct measurement. Researchers found that by using a small fiber to collect the Raman signal after shining the near-infrared light at a 60-degree angle, they could filter out unwanted signals from other solid components in the skin. Testing the device on pigs, they were able to get an accurate glucose reading for up to an hour, and it only required about 15 minutes of calibration.
One drawback to the current technology is that the device is approximately the size of a desktop printer, meaning it is not easily portable. With a slightly smaller system, individuals could have a testing device at home or at work where they could place their finger on a sensor and Raman spectroscopy would be used to check blood sugar. Eventually, researchers would like to create a wearable monitor that would act as a continuous glucose monitor but without any needles.
After more than two decades, researchers are finally getting closer to their goal of creating a laser-based glucose sensor that can be used for everyday monitoring. It is encouraging to see advancements that seek to take some of the pain and inconvenience out of blood sugar monitoring by eliminating the need for so many needles.
Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is excited to see how this technology continues to advance and what it may mean for the future of continuous glucose monitoring and diabetes management. Researchers around the world are focused on improving the prevention, treatment, and management of type 1 diabetes. The DRC supports these efforts by providing up to $75K in funding to early-career scientists pursuing novel research for T1D. Learn more by visiting https://diabetesresearchconnection.org.