(University of Pittsburgh) People living with diabetes keep track of their blood sugars using an invasive and relatively expensive method. At diagnosis, blood is drawn from the arm, involving a needle, an invasive and expensive procedure. Could there be a less expensive and perhaps even non-invasive method on the horizon of diabetes management? Invasive simply put, means an object enters the body, in this case the needle which is used to draw blood.
Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh are studying sensor technology that uses a biomarker that the body emits, to create a tool with the potential of diagnosing and managing diabetes. Their work was recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society
So what is this biomarker, the one that gives breath a fruity odor? Yes, you guessed it, ketones. When blood sugars are high, blood glucose is not being used for energy; the body switches to an alternate source of fuel- fat- specifically fatty acids. When fat is burned for fuel under these conditions, ketones (acetoacetate, beta-hydroxy butyrate, acetone) are produced. The acetone specifically gives the breath a fruity odor. The chemists are working with this biomarker and its possible use as a diagnostic tool.
Investigators at University of Pittsburgh are studying the “sol gel approach”. They have worked to create a sensor using nano sized molecules (tinier than miniscule) and have created a skewered “kabob” of sorts. Particles of titanium dioxide (with light emitting properties) are strung onto carbon nano-tubes (with electrical properties) and to create skewered glow stick.
An electronic semiconductor is born out of this marriage, which when “cooked” under ultraviolet light emits acetone vapors. Researchers hope that they could potentially use these acetone vapors, which so far have exhibited excellent detection capabilities, as a diagnostic tool to measure the levels of blood sugar. The team is currently working on a prototype of the sensor, with plans to test it on human breath samples soon.