At least once per month, an article comes out about a new innovation for diabetes management technology. Different devices claim to be able to measure glucose, warn the user when their glucose level needs attention, and connect the patient with their physician.
Back in April, MDT wrote a story about how Dexcom, a monitoring device manufacturing company, developed one that requires only a needle the width of a human hair to continuously monitor a patient’s glucose levels.
But while needless devices for getting injections have been advancing, researchers seem stuck on how to create a needleless diabetes monitoring device.
However, rumor has it that Apple is researching how to make a wearable device that continuously monitors glucose levels without the need to prick a finger, according to The Verge.
“But experts warn that if the rumors are true, Apple will be facing a scientific and technological battlefield littered with decades of other companies’ failures,” Rachel Becker, a writer for The Verge wrote.
Not only has it never been done before, but measuring blood glucose levels is a challenge in itself. People with diabetes also have to track their food intake. If Apple is able to create such a device, it would be one less thing for diabetics to worry about.
“This is the holy grail,” said Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Transitional Science Institute and board member of Dexcom, a glucose monitor manufacturer, to The Verge.
One of the more recent attempts was when Google tried to develop glucose monitoring contact lenses. The project disappeared when Novartis licensed the technology in 2014, according to The Verge.
Mark Rice, a diabetes expert at Vanderbuilt University, explained a few reasons why developing the technology is so difficult. Aside from being difficult to measure, but getting an accurate measurement is hard to do without piercing the skin. It would be easy to measure when levels are high as it comes out with urine, spit, sweat, and tears. In fact, back in the 1500s, that’s exactly how physicians measured it, by examining urine. When levels are low, the body holds onto it, he explained.
In the early 2000s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved GlucoWatch, which “used a low electrical current to draw glucose right out of the body, where it was measured by sensors on the back of a tight-fitting watch,” Becker wrote. Unfortunately, the watch caused 80 percent of users to get a rash and took at least three hours to start up before the device could take a measurement.
It seems as if creating a device that works quickly, is comfortable, easy-to-use, and accurate will be the major hurdles in creating a needle-free device.
So, while I’m sure that it’s possible, we’ll just have to see what Apple does.