For diabetics who have to undergo constant finger pricking or make use of an automated glucose monitoring system, get ready to say goodbye to those awful methods.
A group of researchers from Washington State University created 3D- printing glucose biosensors. This aims to help diabetic patients cut down cost involved with expensive treatments and tests. These biosensors can be used in wearable monitors, and could lead to improved glucose monitoring for millions of people who suffer from diabetes.
The research, which was led by Arda Gozen and Yuehe Lin who are both from the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, has been published in the journal Analytica Chimica Acta.
People living with diabetes normally have to undergo constant finger pricking (which has become a burden for some, if not all) to be able to self-monitor their blood glucose level on glucose monitor meters. They could also alternate using automated monitoring systems, but this is not cost effective (as they are expensive). Compared to the traditional manufacturing process, these biosensors would reduce stress, cut down both waste and cost and at the same time, improve the accuracy of glucose monitors.
Researchers have been working on making non-invasive wearable glucose electronics that will conform to a person’s skin and can monitor the glucose level of bodily fluids, like sweat. To make the sensors, manufacturers made use of traditional manufacturing processes like photo-lithography or screen printing. Substantial progress was made but there were several drawbacks, including requiring the use of harmful chemicals and expensive clean-room processing as well as creating a lot of waste.
With 3D printing, researchers at WSU were able to develop a glucose monitor with better stability and sensitivity than those produced by traditional methods. The researchers used a method known as direct-ink-writing (DIW), which involves printing “inks” out of nozzles to create intricate and precise tiny scale designs. The ink was a nano-scale material (electrically conductive), used to create small and flexible electrodes. The technique used allows for precise application of a material, which is printed out in smooth, uniform layers with few defects. Hence, increasing the sensor’s sensitivity. The tiny sensors were found able to out-perform traditional electrodes in the detection of glucose signals.
The 3D printing system can also be used for a variety of people’s biology, as biosensors can be custom printed (manufactured) for all patients of different needs including children needs.”3D printing can enable manufacturing of biosensors tailored specifically to individual patients” said Gozen.
Because the 3D printing system uses only the material needed, unlike the traditional methods, there is a cut down in waste from the process. “This can potentially bring down the cost, “Gozen also said.
For large scale use, printing of the biosensors is just a first step in the journey, as the biosensors will have to be integrated with electronic components on a wearable platform. The same process used in creating the sensors can also be used in printing electronics and other components of a wearable medical device, helping to reduce the cost even more.
“Our 3-D printed glucose sensor will be used as a wearable sensor for replacing painful finger pricking. Since this is a non-invasive, needle-less technique for glucose monitoring, it will be easier for children’s glucose monitoring,” said Lin. Once a wearable system is produced, the process could be scaled up to help make the devices available and accessible as possible.
The team is currently working on developing a non-invasive wearable device for the sensor to be used in. The work to integrate the sensors into a packaged device that will be used as a wearable device for long-term use is also ongoing.
Alex Barker is a full-time Pharmacist, media company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He is also is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps busy professionals build successful side businesses.