Korean researchers have created a wearable patch that allows diabetic patients to accurately monitor their blood sugar levels using human sweat.

The non-invasive patch delivers the diabetes drug, Metformin, through the skin with micro-needles.

Currently, patients with diabetes regulate their blood sugar levels with regular finger pricks and insulin shots, a process that is painful.

The researchers improved the device’s detecting capabilities by integrating electrochemically active and soft functional materials on the hybrid of gold-doped graphene and a serpentine-shape gold mesh, reported Science Daily.

The device’s pH and temperature monitoring functions enable systematic corrections of sweat glucose measurements as the enzyme-based glucose sensor is affected by pH (blood acidity levels) and temperature.

“Precise measurements of sweat glucose concentrations are used to estimate the levels of glucose in the blood of a patient. The device retains its original sensitivity after multiple uses, thereby allowing for multiple treatments. The connection of the device to a portable or wireless power supply and data transmission unit enables the point-of-care treatment of diabetes,” said a scientist from the Centre for Nanoparticle Research, Kim Dae-Hyeong.

“The patch is applied to the skin where sweat-based glucose monitoring begins on sweat generation. The humidity sensor monitors the increase in relative humidity (RH). It takes an average of 15 minutes for the sweat-uptake layer of the patch to collect sweat and reach a RH over 80% at which time glucose and pH measurements are initiated,” continued Dae-Hyeong.

During the team’s research, two healthy males participated in tests to demonstrate the sweat-based glucose sensing of the device. Glucose and pH levels of both subjects were recorded; a statistical analysis confirmed the reliable correlation between sweat glucose data from the diabetes patch and those from commercial glucose tests. If abnormally high levels of glucose are detected, a drug is released into a patient’s bloodstream through drug loaded micro-needles.

According to the researchers, the flexible, semi-transparent patch provides easy and comfortable contact with human skin, allowing the sensors to remain unaffected by any skin deformations. This enables stable sensing and efficient drug delivery.

The scientific team also demonstrated the therapeutic effects by experimenting on diabetic mice. Treatment began by applying the device near the abdomen of the diabetic mouse. Micro-needles pierced the skin of the mouse and released Metformin into the bloodstream. The results showed that the group treated with micro-needles showed a significant suppression of blood glucose concentrations with respect to control groups.

“Treatment with Metformin through the skin is more efficient than that through the digestive system because the drug is directly introduced into metabolic circulation through the skin. These advances using nanomaterials and devices provide new opportunities for the treatment of chronic diseases like diabetes,” concluded Dae-Hyeong.

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