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Monday August 20 2018

Diabetes — Blood, sweat, and tears

Diabetes mellitus (DM), a metabolic disorder characterized by irregular insulin production or insulin resistance, affects over 350 million people worldwide.1 Diabetic individuals must monitor their blood glucose levels several times a day, using a process that commonly involves pricking the skin and obtaining a small blood sample to test. Although effective, the frequency of self-monitoring has been reported to decrease over time, largely due to inconvenience.2 Hence, there is a need for the development of a need to develop more pragmatic and continuous monitoring methods.

In recent years, the advent of wearable biosensor technology has allowed users to monitor their heart rates and physical activity levels more easily, even though current commercially available wearables are still unable to monitor the body’s status on a molecular level.3

In a potentially revolutionary advancement, however, researchers have developed a new indium oxide nanoribbon field-effect transistor (FET) biosensor.3 Used to amplify weak signals, a FET is a special type of transistor in which current flow is modulated by a transverse electric field and used to amplify weak signals.4,5 Incorporating an on-chip gold side gate electrode, a natural chitosan film, and carbon nanotubes, this new device relies on the reactions between glucose in the fluid sample and glucose oxidase in the biosensor; the ensuing process produces an electrical signal that can be analyzed by the sensor for the detection of glucose concentrations from 10 nanomolar to 1 millimolar in the sweat, saliva, and tears of both diabetic and non-diabetic individuals. As researchers modify the design of the biosensor to fit the surface of an artificial eye and an artificial arm, this technology may be potentially worn as contact lenses or skin patches for the continuous monitoring of glucose levels.3

Written by Kevin Chen

References may be found in the journal.

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The Meducator is McMaster University’s undergraduate Health Sciences Journal. It publishes pieces that critically address current issues with a high degree of scientific rigor, but in a way that is accessible to a broad audience.

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