Scientists Develop Wearable Sensors That Could Mean No More Finger Pricks for Diabetics

Bioengineers have developed small, wearable devices that can monitor health non-invasively

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For many diabetics, daily monitoring of blood sugar means an inconvenient and uncomfortable finger stick. But what if there was a better way? Scientists are developing a tiny, wearable device that can sample human sweat and provide feedback on a number of chronic conditions.

Instead of a finger prick, what if it was possible to track blood sugar, with this patch? A team of bioengineers at Penn State has developed a small, wearable device that can monitor health non-invasively.

This waterproof patch has embedded sensors. Bioengineers designed it to adhere and conform to the skin, staying put through daily activities and during exercise.

“Through that, we'll be able to pick up all the vital information in terms of the heart rate, respiration, sweat analysis,” said Dr. Huanyu “Larry” Cheng, an assistant professor of engineering science and mechanics at Penn State University.

The device collects sweat and analyzes it for pH, sodium, and glucose levels. Those readings are especially important for a person with low blood sugar or diabetes.

“So, we don't need to do the blood sampling all the time and we'll be able to analyze glucose and the other biomarkers,” Cheng said. 

Cheng says signals sent by the sensor will be transmitted to a smartphone or sent to the cloud, so a patient’s healthcare provider could have quick access to the information. Wearable tech, relaying life-saving information in real-time.

Cheng says he expects to start the FDA approval process by the end of this year. He and his colleagues are in talks with local manufacturers, the National Institutes of Health and Amazon to produce and distribute the wearable monitor. The researchers are also working on dissolvable monitors that could be used inside the human body.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive & Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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