Australian scientists say they have developed the “holy grail” of blood sugar testing for diabetics: a printed strip that checks glucose levels in the saliva, without the need to draw blood as in traditional tests.
For diabetics, managing their blood sugar levels typically means pricking their fingers multiple times a day with a lancet and then placing a drop of blood on a testing strip or measuring instrument.
Many diabetes sufferers avoid the painful process by only going for tests when called by their healthcare professionals for routine checks.
However, diabetes has the potential to cause numerous debilitating health complications. Most often, complications are the result of unmanaged or poorly managed diabetes.
Paul Dastoor, professor of physics at the University of Newcastle in Australia, who led the team that created the breakthrough test, says it works by embedding an enzyme that detects glucose into a transistor that can then transmit the presence of glucose in the mouth.
Since the electronic materials in the transistor are inks, the test can be made through printing at a low cost, Dastoor said.
“The holy grail of glucose testing has been something that is non-invasive,” said Dastoor. “This test really does open up the prospect of pain-free, low-cost glucose testing and hopefully much better outcomes for diabetes sufferers.”
The new test, Dastoor said, was created by chance as scientists were working on solar cells.
The project has secured multi-million dollar funding from the Australian government to establish a facility to produce the test kits should clinical trials currently underway be passed.
Dastoor says the technology could also be transferred to allergen, hormone, and cancer testing.
The Newcastle team is already working with Harvard University on a test for Covid-19 using the same technology.
However, it’s the implications for other testing that has the physicist excited about the potential for the sensors.
“I think it’s going to radically change the way we think about medical devices and in particular sensors because we can print these at remarkably low cost,” said Dastoor.