Sensing Microneedles Developed For Continuous Monitoring Of Body Chemicals
In the future, maybe not too distant, diabetics may be able to monitor their glucose levels continuously, rather than at one point in time, thanks to the researchers from North Carolina State University, Sandia National Laboratories, and the University of California, San Diego. These researchers have incorporated sensors into multiple microneedles, each less than a millimeter long, that may make today's glucose analyzers, the annoying skin prick tests, obsolete.
The new microneedles have the potential of measuring almost any chemical in the body, not just glucose. The hollow needles are loaded with electrochemical sensors that can be used to identify specific molecules. The sensors are currently customized to detect glucose, pH levels, and lactate. They are read by a scanning electron micrograph.
Chemical levels change constantly in our bodies, and when one of them is suspected of causing disease or illness, it is advantageous to monitor one or more of them in real time over a period of time. Monitoring a person's glucose levels over a day, for example, allows a detailed view of those levels before and after sleep, before and after meals, and before and after exercise. But even more specific knowledge can be gained regarding those levels when a subject eats a portion of spinach versus a portion of meat.
Roger Narayan, professor in the joint biomedical engineering department of NC State's College of Engineering and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and co-author of the study published in the online issue of Talanta, projects that a series of microneedles can be formed into various wearable devices, such as a watch.
'It is also worth pointing out that microneedles are not painful," Narayan says.
Microneedle sensing devices don't only hold promise for helping patients with specific disorders, but basic research on chemical reactions in most all of our body processes... in real time!