Australian research looks at alternatives to blood glucose testing

Professor Paul Dastoor is leading the way in diabetes research as he and his team work to develop a low-cost, saliva-based glucose test which could make blood tests a thing of the past for people living with diabetes.

The needle free test integrates biosensors or chemical signatures into printed transistors and detects concentrations of glucose that is up to 100 times more sensitive than current blood sensors.

Professor Dastoor from the University of Newcastle says the most futuristic way it would work is that it could allow people to print their own sensor on an inkjet printer at home.

“You would get a cartridge potentially that you could print on a little piece of plastic, cut it out and lick it. I expect it will plug into a low-cost reader,” he said, estimating the cost of each device to be less than a cent.

Ultimately Professor Dastoor and his team hope the device would send the glucose reading to the person’s mobile phone.

“Where we are now then, is having the ability to create a really low-cost sensor that we can print enormous quantities of which would be sensitive to glucose in your saliva,” he said.

“The creation of the non-invasive test for diabetes has been described as the Holy Grail in diabetes research for decades,” Professor Dastoor said.

Other non-invasive tests among the current methods being developed for people living with diabetes include tattoos, sensors and breathalysers.

Diabetes NSW ambassador and General Manager of the Australian Technology Park in Sydney, Duncan Reid has had type 1 diabetes for 29 years and says non-invasive testing would be life-changing for people with diabetes who are at work and school.

“This sounds like a great way to test blood glucose levels, particularly for people at work or even children at school where printers may be more readily available,” he said. “I’ll be one of the first in line for it – I’m yet to hear of someone who enjoys pricking their fingers to check their levels.”

Diabetes NSW Credentialled Diabetes Educator, Genevieve Biviano, said although the research has been in development for eight years and has a patent on it, it is still in early stages.

“We certainly hope a non-invasive test for blood glucose levels will be available on the market soon and we’re looking forward to hearing about the success of future clinical trials,” she said.

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