Diabetes affects some 300 million people worldwide and the numbers keep on increasing. Many of these people undergo a daily regimen of tests that measure the amount of glucose in the blood stream, usually taken from finger prick samples.
Needless to say, this is a time-consuming, expensive and painful process. So a cheap way of measuring blood glucose that does not require finger pricking would clearly be advantageous.
Today, Mitchell Lerner at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and a few pals, say they have developed just such a device. Their glucose sensor is essentially a carbon nanotube-based transistor in which the never tubes are coated with pyrene-1-boronic acid molecules that bind to glucose.
The device is relatively simple. It’s straightforward to measure the switching characteristics– the current-voltage curve– of a transistor. When glucose binds to the functionalised nanotubes, it simply changes this curve in a measurable way producing a straightforward way to measure glucose concentration.
Much of this technology has already been demonstrated in the lab. The trick that Lerner and co have perfected is to combine it in an easy-to-make system that is potentially cheap to manufacture en masse.