Graphene armband monitors diabetes through sweat

21 March 2016
By Jack Loughran
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The graphene patch is more convenient than current treatments available to diabetics

The graphene patch is more convenient than current treatments available to diabetics

A wearable graphene-based patch has been developed that allows accurate diabetes monitoring and feedback therapy by analysing the sweat of the wearer.

The device’s detecting capabilities are achieved by integrating electrochemically active and soft functional materials on a hybrid of gold-doped graphene and a serpentine-shape gold mesh.

Its pH and temperature monitoring functions enable systematic corrections of sweat glucose measurements, as the enzyme-based glucose sensor is affected by pH (blood acidity levels) and temperature.

South Korea’s Institute for Basic Science (IBS) has been developing the device because diabetes represents a significant health hazard in the country. Roughly three million Koreans are affected, a figure that is increasing due to dietary patterns and an aging society.

The patch is said to be more convenient than the current treatments available to diabetics which are often painful, inconvenient and costly. Regular visits to a doctor and home testing kits are also needed to record glucose levels.

KIM Dae-Hyeong, a scientist from IBS’s Center for Nanoparticle Research, describes the vast array of components used in the patch: “Our wearable GP-based device is capable of not only sweat-based glucose and pH monitoring, but also controlled transcutaneous drug delivery through temperature-responsive microneedles.

“Precise measurement of sweat glucose concentrations are used to estimate the levels of glucose in the blood of a patient. The device retains its original sensitivity after multiple uses, thereby allowing for multiple treatments.

“The connection of the device to a portable wireless power supply and data transmission unit enables the point-of-care treatment of diabetes.”

Explaining how the device works, Dae-Hyeong said: “The patch is applied to the skin where sweat-based glucose monitoring begins on sweat generation.

“The humidity sensor monitors the increase in relative humidity (RH). It takes an average of 15 minutes for the sweat-uptake layer of the patch to collect sweat and reach RH over 80 per cent, at which time glucose and pH measurements are initiated.”

A group of Israeli engineers recently demonstrated a smartphone connected washable smart sock fitted with dozens of pressure sensors that can help diabetes sufferers avoid foot amputation.

Last year, a new type of diabetes pump was demonstrated that mimics the pancreas by using sensors to anticipate blood sugar levels to prevent hypoglycaemic attacks.

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