Wake up. Prick your finger. Repeat daily for the rest of your life. That’s a way of life for thousands of diabetics, and it’s something Dr. Chang-Soo Kim, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Missouri-Rolla, is trying to change.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, Kim is developing a “smart” sensor that can provide continuous blood sugar monitoring for those living with diabetes, one of the most common and serious chronic diseases in the United States. Diabetics would wear the sensor and monitor like a watch, providing a more accurate and less painful method for checking levels than the intermittent monitoring capable through disposable testing strips.
“The one-time disposable devices are primitive,” Kim says. “They’re painful and inconvenient for diabetics because they have to use a lancet to prick their finger on a regular basis. My method is minimally invasive and provides continuous monitoring of glucose levels.”
The FDA has already approved sensor-based monitors that record glucose levels every few minutes. The sensor is inserted just under the surface of the skin and measures changes in glucose levels before sending the information to a monitor. Users have to discard and replace the sensor every few days.
“The sensitivity of most sensors tends to degrade after a matter of time,” Kim explains. “My microsensor will provide in situ self-calibration, meaning it will periodically calibrate and correct itself autonomously.”
The ability to continuously monitor glucose levels could help physicians treat the disease, by allowing them to evaluate trends in glucose levels during normal daily activities.
According to statistics from the National Institutes of Health, more than 80,000 people are being diagnosed with diabetes each year, so there’s no shortage of people who will need help managing the disease. Yet there’s still a long road ahead to get the new sensor on store shelves, Kim says. Once a prototype is completed, the sensor will have to go through a series of clinical trials, which can take years.