Researchers from North Carolina
Sandia National Laboratories, and the University
of California, San Diego have developed new technology that
uses microneedles to allow doctors to detect real-time chemical changes in the
body – and to continuously do so for an extended period of time.
“Weve loaded the hollow channels within microneedles with electrochemical
sensors that can be used to detect specific molecules or pH levels,” says Dr.
Roger Narayan, co-author of a paper describing the research, and a professor in
the joint biomedical engineering department of NC States College
of Engineering and the University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill.
Existing technology relies on taking samples and testing
them, whereas this approach allows continuous monitoring, Narayan explains.
“For example, it could monitor glucose levels in a diabetic patient,” Narayan
says. Microneedles are very small needles in which at least one dimension –
such as length – is less than one millimeter.
“The idea is that customized microneedle sensor arrays could
be developed and incorporated into wearable devices, such as something like a
wristwatch, to help answer specific medical or research questions,” Narayan
says. “Its also worth pointing out that microneedles are not painful.”
In addition to its clinical applications, the new technology
may also create opportunities for new research endeavors. For example, the
microneedle sensor arrays could be used to track changes in lactate levels
while people are exercising – rather than measuring those levels only before
and after exercise.
The researchers developed a proof-of-concept sensor array
incorporating three types of sensors, which could measure pH, glucose and
lactate. However, Narayan says the array could be modified to monitor a wide
variety of chemicals.
The paper, “Multiplexed Microneedle-based Biosensor Array
for Characterization of Metabolic Acidosis,” is published online in the journal
Talanta. The paper was co-authored by Narayan and NC State Ph.D. students
Philip Miller and Shelby Skoog as well as researchers from Sandia National
Laboratories and the University of California, San Diego. The research was
funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health,
and the Department of Energy.
Posted by Sean Fenske, Editor-in-Chief, MDT