An implantable sensor that may one day be used to simultaneously monitor glucose and insulin levels in the blood to help patients with diabetes better manage their disease has been developmed by a group of researchers in New Mexico. Although not yet tested in diabetics, the researchers hope that it will become the standard of care for patients with diabetes.
measure their glucose levels manually, using monitors that measure
the blood sugar in a drop of blood. The researchers say a monitor
constantly measures the ratio between glucose and insulin could
help diabetics maintain closer control of their condition.
Wang and a team of scientists at the University of New Mexico in
Las Cruces used electrochemistry and computer technology to integrate
insulin monitoring into a device that can gather both kinds of data
through one small, implantable needle that operates as a sensor.
the sensor, Wang filled a needle about the size of a hypodermic
needle with two tiny lengths of tubing that collect electrochemical
data on glucose and
insulin levels and transfer it to a computer. All of this happens
in real time, while the device is implanted, the researchers report
in the February 15th issue of
sensor is still in very early stages--the needle was tested while
hooked up to a machine that simulates fluctuating levels of glucose
production--Wang believes it may one day become the standard of
care for patients with diabetes.
is to replace the widely used glucose-monitoring strip with implantable
devices," Wang said. "It
is very important for
patients to be able to measure the ratio between insulin and glucose."
There are more
than 15 million people in the US who have diabetes, and another
800,000 are diagnosed with the disease each year, according to the
Diabetes Association. Roughly 95% have Type 2 diabetes, which occurs
when the body loses its sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that
regulates blood glucose levels.
People with Type 1 diabetes, by comparison, do not generate insulin.
Over the long term, high blood sugar levels can damage the eyes,
kidneys, and nerves.
To combat these
imbalances, patients can be prescribed insulin injections and other
medicines to regulate insulin levels or enhance insulin sensitivity.
particularly those with Type 1 diabetes, use insulin pumps to deliver
insulin via a tube to the fat under the skin.
Wang said that
although he hopes to launch clinical trials of the device next summer,
he and his team have a long way to go. "We must first make
biocompatible, scale it down and make the needle smaller, and improve
the electronics," he said in the interview.
Wang foresees a device that costs between $25 and $30 and is implanted
for 3 to 4 days and then replaced. Although he said that he has
not yet been
approached by pharmaceutical companies interested in sponsoring
his device, potential investors might include Abbott, Biovail, Roche
and Johnson & Johnson. The
study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.