Sweat patches used to test blood sugar levels could provide new method of self-management for people with diabetes.

South Korean researchers have made a breakthrough in measuring blood sugar levels – by developing a wearable patch that provides results based on glucose found in sweat.

By wearing a soft patch on their skin, people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes could work out their blood sugar readings and in turn, work out how much insulin may be needed to maintain good self-management of the condition.  

The researchers based at Seoul National University believe this method of collecting blood sugar readings could provide a “non-invasive” alternative to the sometimes “painful” method of finger prick testing used today.

In the study, recently published in Science Advances, researchers said: “We present a wearable/disposable sweat-based glucose monitoring device integrated with a feedback transdermal drug delivery module. Careful multilayer patch design and miniaturisation of sensors increase the efficiency of the sweat collection and sensing process.”

Using an electronic system the device could then activate a “precisely controlled drug release in response to the patient’s glucose level” to make sure the correct amount of insulin in taken, using micro-needles.

Tests found the device to be accurate, with just one millionth of a litre of sweat needed to produce results, although there is less sugar in sweat than blood so it is harder to find, and other chemicals in sweat such as lactic acid can disrupt the results. Additional research on mice, hooked up the sensor to a patch of tiny needles to automatically inject insulin. More testing will be needed before the new technology could be available to humans.

The researchers added that “the current system provides important new advances towards painless and stress-free” diabetes care.

Gwen Hall, Diabetes Specialist Nurse, and DRWF Editorial Advisory Board Member, said: “This is an interesting development for the future, although there is no information on when it might be available and how. More research is needed to see if this product may be suitable for humans.”

Read the report in Science Advances

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