#MedTechToolbox Talk: Diabetes Care Without the Needles?

HealthcareJanuary 21, 2014

Let's be honest. Needles are scary, but diabetes care involves needles. It's a requirement. Or is it? New products are showing us that possibilities like needle-free injection and wireless glucose monitors might be right around the corner.

Diabetes care would be much easier without the needles. Luckily, we're headed in that direction. Echo Therapeutics is developing a wireless glucose monitor called the Symphony® CGM System, that will take note of a patient's glucose once every minute through the skin and display the results on an external monitor. The monitor will also alert the patient if he or she falls below or above blood sugar levels specified by the patient.

The first step in this process is to take off the top layer of skin, called the stratum corneum, using another of Echo's products, the Prelude® SkinPrep System. Prelude® prepares a small section of skin permeable to body chemicals that allow Echo's CGM system to monitor blood glucose levels. That same section of skin can also be used to administer drugs transdermally, or through the skin.

Prelude® knows where the stratum corneum stops and the next layer of skin begins by monitoring the electrical conductance of the skin. This is important because the stratum corneum is only about 0.1 mm thick, a depth that could never be easily judged by the users of this technology. Prelude® turns off as soon as it reaches the next layer of skin, making it painless and safe (since the stratum corneum is composed of dead cells anyway).

After the Prelude® does its job, the CGM system comes in to measure the glucose levels. The CGM system can be applied directly to the prepared area of skin and remain there for two days while the patient goes about normal activity. After this, the process is repeated on the same area of skin or a different one.

These advancements mean no more needles ten times a day for diabetes patients, no more forgetting to check your blood glucose levels, no more annoying finger pricks, and the potential for drugs to be delivered transdermally through the skin.

While this technology will probably start in the operating room where surgeons need to perform procedures on patients while monitoring their blood glucose levels, we can only hope that eventually the technology will become available to the public.

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