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Posted: Nov 28, 2013
Breathalyzer nanotechnology shows promise in monitoring diabetes
(Nanowerk News) Researchers at Western New England University are working on a breathalyzer device that could one day replace regular blood testing in diabetics. The new monitoring device uses multilayer nanotechnology to detect acetone in the breath of diabetics, which has been shown to correlate with blood-glucose levels.
20120822_wne_0027jpg“Breathalyzers are a growing field of study because of their potential to have a significant positive impact on patients’ quality of life and compliance with diabetes monitoring,” says Ronny Priefer, a professor of medicinal chemistry at the University’s College of Pharmacy who developed the device.
Priefer has applied for a patent on the technology, which uses nanometer-thick films consisting of two polymers that react with acetone. “What makes our technology different is that it only accounts for acetone and doesn’t react with other components in the breath,” said Priefer, who presented the results of his research at the 2013 American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists Annual Meeting and Exposition in November.
Diabetes affects an estimated 347 million people worldwide according to the World Health Organization. The disease prevents the natural cellular uptake of sugar and often requires continuous blood-glucose monitoring. Current technology, such as the blood glucose meter, is invasive and causes discomfort, which can result in low compliance. This in turn can ultimately lead to poor health outcomes.
While scientists know that acetone levels rise when blood sugar levels rise, the exact relationship between the two is not fully understood. “If we can successfully show that there is a linear correlation between acetone levels and blood glucose levels, the ease of which an individual with diabetes can monitor their disease should be dramatically simplified,” says Priefer.
Right now the breathalyzer is about the size of a book. However, Priefer is working with Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Michael Rust on making the device smaller – similar to the size of breathalyzers typically used to detect blood alcohol levels.
Priefer and his College of Pharmacy colleagues have two clinics lined up to perform controlled testing with patients starting in late 2014 or early 2015. This testing would compare readings from the breathalyzer, finger-pricking, and actual glucose levels from drawn blood. After that, patients would test the breathalyzers in uncontrolled settings, keeping a diary of their readings and reporting back.