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Diabetes testing with saliva moves forward

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Research moves toward saliva testing for diabetes

Scientists at Brown University have made progress toward helping people with diabetes test their blood sugar levels using saliva. The next step is to test the device in humans. The future for millions of diabetics who test their blood sugar level several times a day could mean no more painful needle sticks.

Biochip measures glucose accurately

The biochip works by using light to sense the chemical signatures of compounds in fluids.

“We have demonstrated the sensitivity needed to measure glucose concentrations typical in saliva, which are typically 100 times lower than in blood,” said Domenico Pacifici, assistant professor of engineering at Brown, who led the research in a press release.“Now we are able to do this with extremely high specificity, which means that we can differentiate glucose from the background components of saliva.”

Finding a non-invasive way of testing blood sugar levels is important for people with diabetes who can have difficulty over time obtaining blood with the finger-stick method, not to mention it can be painful.

The researchers have tested the device with artificial saliva and plan to move forward to human testing. According to the study authors, blood sugar levels could be measured accurately with just a small amount of saliva.

The technology

Teh biochip is a small square made from quartz that is coated with silver. Within the chip are grooves that are 1000 times thinner than a human hair.

The Brown University researchers explained:

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“When light is shined on the chip, the grooves cause a wave of free electrons in the silver — a surface plasmon polariton — to propagate toward the slit. Those waves interfere with light that passes through the slit. Sensitive detectors then measure the patterns of interference generated by the grooves and slits.”

When liquid is added other interference patterns can be detected before the light and waves interfere with each other.

The biochip can be calibrated to detect different chemicals and molecules by adjusting the distance between the grooves and the center slit.

The researchers were successful in developing a way for the chip to detect glucose in saliva using two enzymes that specifically react with glucose.

The next step is to test the device in humans and then manufacturing a portable device so diabetics can test their glucose level with saliva instead of having to use blood.

There are other potential applications for the biochip as well that include using the device for insulin, detecting toxins in the air and water and for monitoring chemical reactions in real time in a laboratory setting.

“We are now calibrating this device for insulin,” Pacifici said in a press release, adding the device could be use to monitor almost any chemical.

There is also a patent pending device that has been developed that uses saliva to test blood sugar levels called the iQuickit Saliva Analyzer that eliminates daily needle sticks.

Saliva testing for managing diabetes would mean no more needles chemicals and pain for millions of people diagnosed with the disease.

Image credit: Pixabay