Researchers at the University of California San Diego and GlySens Inc. are developing an implantable wireless sensor to continuously monitor blood sugar in diabetes patients, Reuters reports. The device could bring scientists one step closer to developing an “artificial pancreas” to manage diabetes.
The implant is 1.5 inches in diameter and 5/8 of an inch thick. It uses a sensor to detect oxygen at the implant site to measure blood glucose. The lead researcher of the study hopes that the device could one day send parents a cell phone alert if their child’s blood glucose levels dropped to a dangerous level. The sensor has been successfully tested in a pig for more than a year, and in another for nearly 10 months. Researchers plan to begin testing the device in humans in the coming months.
Blood glucose monitoring is an important part of diabetes management, but the inconvenience and discomfort associated with the conventional finger-stick blood glucose test may discourage compliance in diabetic patients. Minimally invasive devices to aid in blood sugar control could make it easier for patient to manage diabetes, at least until an artificial pancreas is successfully brought to market. Reuters mentions Animas Corporation and DexCom as two companies that are collaborating to develop an artificial pancreas. An update provided in June at the American Diabetes Association’s 70th Scientific Sessions indicated that the device was effective across a range of real-life situations.
Another company, UK-based Cybersensors, is developing an implantable blood glucose monitoring device for diabetics. According to the company’s website, the device is about the size of an aspirin tablet and would be implanted just under the surface of the skin. The device would be able to communicate wirelessly with a hand-held reader.
The World Health Organization estimates that at least 171 million people worldwide have diabetes, a number that the organization expects to more than double by 2030. Diabetes cost the United States about $174.4 billion in 2007, according to a report published earlier this year in the journal Health Affairs.