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Surprising Science

Measuring Glucose Levels Without Needles Or Test Strips

Diabetics may someday be able to test their blood sugar levels using a simple, painless laser device that registers glucose in skin cells.

What’s the Latest Development?

Newly published in Review of Scientific Instruments is a paper describing how researchers at Frankfurt’s Institut für Biophysik, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität developed a painless and noninvasive way of testing blood sugar. When a pulse of infrared laser light is applied to the skin, glucose molecules react by creating a distinct and measurable sound signature. The technology, known as photoacoustic spectroscopy, has been tried before but environmental variables such as humidity and temperature affected the readings. For the first time, the researchers were able to get around these variables through the use of an experimental design structure.

What’s the Big Idea?

Diabetics must monitor their blood sugar levels regularly, and although advancements have made this process quicker and more comfortable, there’s still room for improvement.  Lead researcher Werner Mäntele says his team’s work “opens the fantastic possibility that diabetes patients might be able to measure their glucose level without pricking and without test strips.” There’s still a few more years’ worth of testing to do before the first glucometers using this technology reach the market.

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