No More Needles

February 28, 2008

For diabetics, the daily routine of pricking their finger to check blood-sugar levels can be an annoying and inconvenient task. But now, a Baylor University researcher has developed an electromagnetic sensor that could provide diabetics a noninvasive alternative to reading their blood glucose levels.
"We are definitely excited," said Dr. Randall Jean, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Baylor. "This is a relatively new area the market is exploring and we've demonstrated that using microwave energy can work."
The sensor uses electromagnetic waves to measure blood glucose levels in the body. As the energy goes from the sensor through the skin and back to the sensor, the glucose level is measured through the transference of energy. Jean said the microwave frequency range is wide enough to isolate the effect of sugar in the blood and minimize the characteristics of other things like body fat and bone, which could alter accurate readings. Jean also said using electromagnetic waves is relatively safe because they do not ionize the body's molecules like x-rays can do.
To measure glucose levels, users must press their thumb against the sensor, and a study by the Baylor researchers shows that the sensor is accurate. Researchers took samples of nearly 20 people and compared those samples to levels measured by an over-the-counter commercial sensor. The researchers found Baylor's noninvasive sensor has the potential of achieving the same or even better accuracy than current commercial sensors, many of which prick the finger to sample blood.
"The sensor passed its first simple quantitative test," Jean said. "It can provide useful information to help the user decide what course of action they should take."
In February, Jean presented his findings at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers symposium on sensor applications held in Atlanta.