Most diabetics need a finger prick test several times a day to determine whether their blood sugar level is under control.
But with this transparent patch with wiggly electric circuits and tiny gold plates, they can be freed from the painful, frightening cycles of pin prick by simply putting the patch on their wrists.
This “diabetes patch” is a see-through, graphene-based electrochemical patch with sensors that can detect temperature, PH level, and glucose level from the wearer’s sweat.
Developed by Professor Kim Dae-hyeong of Seoul National University in South Korea and a team of researchers, the patch enables diabetics to easily monitor their blood sugar levels and inject their medication at any time, any place.
If the app judges that the patient needs medication, then the microneedles embedded in the patch deliver the drug filled inside the needles.
Kim believes the discreteness of the sensor as well as its easy use will make it popular among patients.
“(Diabetics) are very reluctant to measure blood sugar, or get an insulin shot in public. (This creates) a problem with the management of that disease.
“Things which a diabetic should take care of on a daily basis is often only done once a fortnight. However, this technology makes (the diabetes management) painless. It’s also not visible to others and less stressful,” he says.
The sensors of the patch send the data collected from the patient’s sweat to a smartphone app which makes calculations based on the sweat-based data. If the app judges that the patient needs medication, then the microneedles embedded in the patch deliver the drug filled inside the needles.
Under the control of the heater and temperature sensors of the patch, microneedles can accurately deliver medication within a much less painful way compared to the conventional injection method using a syringe. The thin microneedles cause hardly any pain to the patient even when they penetrate his skin.
Moon Min Kyong, a diabetes specialist at Seoul National University Boramae Hospital, believes the patch is truly innovative.
“The first step of diabetes management for diabetics is measuring blood sugar level. Diabetics find it difficult to use the current method of measuring blood sugar level, which is done by pricking fingertip, because of pain.
The newly developed, noninvasive glucose measuring method that uses sweat is considered a highly innovative method, and the drug delivery method (of the diabetes patch) that was developed together (with the non invasive glucose measuring method) is also very interesting,” Moon said.
Kim believes that such convenience of the diabetes patch will help diabetics to regularly manage their illness and prevent or delay facing complications of diabetes.
“Now, what makes diabetics afraid are the serious complications of diabetes, rather than diabetes itself (Complications like) cardiovascular disorders, stroke, diabetic foot ulcer and diabetic optic nerve damage are very terrible diseases,” Kim says.
Kim expects that it will take about five years to complete the technical development of the patch, get it certified and introduce it to the market.
Diabetes has become a common disease and one of the leading causes of death worldwide.
In South Korea, there are approximately 2.7 million diabetics, which is about 8 percent of the total adult population.
By 2040, it is expected that there will be 620 million diabetics across the globe.