This Skin Patch Could One Day Help Control Diabetes

Hui Won Yun, Seoul National University
Hui Won Yun, Seoul National University / Hui Won Yun, Seoul National University

For many people, managing diabetes can be an exhausting process. It often requires paying close attention to diet, carefully monitoring glucose levels, and, of course, lots and lots of finger-pricks. But now, researchers are developing a patch that could monitor glucose levels and administer medicine automatically, making diabetes treatment much less invasive and time consuming.

MIT Technology Review reports that the patch—which is described in a recent paper in the journal Nature Nanotechnology—contains sensors that can detect temperature, humidity, pH, and glucose. The Graphene-based patch senses glucose levels in sweat and automatically releases medication when glucose levels become too high. Using microneedles, the patch painlessly releases insulin or metformin, a drug commonly prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes, just below skin level.

Ars Technica explains that the patch could be a noninvasive alternative to traditional diabetes monitoring devices, which require taking periodic blood samples. It’s designed to be comfortable and user-friendly: It’s made of a flexible material that conforms to an individual’s wrist, and can even be equipped with a wireless data transmitter to send data to a smartphone.

Unfortunately, the patch won’t be available on the market for some time. While researchers have made great strides towards developing a viable diabetes patch, more tests are still necessary to make sure it will work under all conditions. Ars Technica notes that the patch may be less effective in cold weather because it relies on sweat monitoring. However, once it’s completed, it could be revolutionary.

Researcher Roozbeh Ghaffari told MIT, “This is the first closed-loop epidermal system that has both monitoring and the noninvasive delivery of diabetes drugs directly to the subject.”

[h/t MIT Technology Review]