Texas A&M researchers are on their way to making life for diabetics a little less painful.
Gerard Coté, head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and holder of the Charles H. and Bettye Barclay Professorship in Engineering, and Michael Pishko, professor and holder of the Stewart & Stevenson Professorship II, hope to create a technology that changes the way glucose monitoring works by eliminating the need for finger-pricking.
The technology would work by encapsulating fluorescent chemistry in a cylindrical implant and inserting it into the wrist of a diabetic patient, just below the skin. The sheath is invisible, but when you shine a small laser on it, it glows and changes color in response to changes in blood sugar levels. The information would then be transmitted to a small device like a wristwatch that would alert the patient of dangerous blood sugar levels. “There is no reason why we can’t incorporate an alarm into the monitor so a patient would be alerted when their glucose starts to go into a critical path upward or a critical path downward,” said Coté.
The idea came to Coté at a conference he attended where a doctor presented the idea of using lasers to remove tattoos. “I was already working in the glucose sensing area for diabetics,” said Coté. “I thought, maybe there is an implant we could develop that I could optically interrogate.”
When he returned from the conference Coté contacted Pishko to assist him in the creation of this new technology. Coté and Pishko began to form the chemistry, polymer materials and optics to measure blood sugar levels. The two received funding from the National Science Foundation and the State of Texas Advance Research Program to help jumpstart the process.
Coté and Pishko are also working alongside an associate professor in biomedical engineering, Melissa Grunlan. Grunlan received a grant from the National Institutes of Health in 2009 to help develop the biocompatible polymer sheath for glucose monitoring.
Although the sensor is still in its early stages, their research has already grabbed the attention of potential patients and was featured in the Reader’s Digest magazine in 2008.
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Derek Dictson ’00, Director of Development, College of Engineering
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