University of Pittsburgh
September 25, 2000

Pitt Researcher Develops Minimally Invasive Glucose Monitor

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PITTSBURGH, Sept. 19 -- University of Pittsburgh professor Jerome Schultz plans to make life less painful for diabetics with the help of a biotechnological device the size of a half-inch piece of thread. In a paper published in the Sept. 15 issue of Analytical Chemistry, Schultz, director of Pitt's Center for Biotechnology and Bioengineering and chairman of the Department of Bioengineering, explained his implanted glucose-monitoring sensor.

"I consider our technology to be minimally invasive. Once the thin plastic capsule is implanted just under the skin, diabetic patients can continuously monitor their glucose levels," said Schultz. "Our method has the potential to provide continuous readings of glucose within about 3-5 minutes.

"Monitoring technology is especially important for diabetic children," added Schultz, whose work is sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. "High physical activity levels can cause a rapid depression in blood glucose, and a continuous monitor could also be rigged as an alarm to warn parents of possible seizures."

The sensor measures blood glucose levels by using flourescent particles inside the half-inch long tubing. The particles are invisible until glucose levels in the blood change. If blood glucose levels rise a small amount, only a few flourescent particles are exposed, but a large influx of glucose exposes many particles. A monitor with a special photometer on the surface of the skin measures the intensity of the light, which reflects the blood glucose concentration.

Schultz hopes to fit the monitor's components into a device the size of a watch, which would be worn directly above the implantation site. The device could potentially replace traditional finger-prick tests for 16 million Americans living with diabetes.

"The ideal situation would be a completely reliable, portable, fast-working blood glucose monitor that is attached to an insulin pump, an implanted device that can be programmed to release synthetic insulin in unison with demand," said Schultz. "Our hope is that in the future such a reliable artificial pancreas will allow diabetics to live without consciousness of their diabetes."