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Researcher: New Wearable Sweat-Sensing Device Measures Blood Sugar

DALLAS (CBS11) - The finger pricking can get tiresome for someone with diabetes. So, it should come as welcome news that researchers at the biomedical engineering lab at University of Texas at Dallas have come up with a new technology that could eliminate finger pricking altogether.

A new device created by the team of Dr. Shalini Prasad, Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at UT Dallas, lends promise for testing blood-sugar levels from sweat.

new device
New technology that could eliminate finger pricking altogether. (CBS11)

It is a watch-like gadget, worn on your wrist. A press of a button and short 30 second wait will give your readings from your sweat, telling you instantly if your sugar levels are elevated or not.

Dr. Shalini Prasad and her team have been working on this prototype with hopes of selling it commercially. The device has a small penny-size sensor, which soaks up sweat, tests for glucose and reports its findings, wirelessly to a smart reader.

"It has three sensors and it's the size of an American penny," Dr. Prasad told CBS11.

It also costs 7 cents a patch!

Dr. Prasad and her team of bioengineers hope their so called "sweat" sensor will revolutionize the way we monitor type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes. Instead of pricking your fingers multiple times a day, the device reads glucose levels in your sweat--even when you're not working up a sweat. "This gives freedom to the user so they can go through the day and not having to wonder what maybe an additional packet of sugar in the coffee can do to their day," Dr. Prasad said.

It can help physicians determine the next course of action as well.

More than 350 million people around the world have the chronic condition. 65 million of them in India, where Dr. Prasad was born. Her goal is to broaden access of care at a low price point.

"For people well below the poverty line, they are not going to invest in medical support when they cannot feed themselves," she said.

Along with detecting glucose in sweat, the team says the patch detects Interluken-6, which can be a marker for autoimmune diseases, and cortisol, which is a stress hormone.

"As a combination, when you look at these three, you can look for chronic diseases," Dr. Prasad said. "You can essentially get a good physiological monitoring for any wearer."

But she says more research is needed to show the glucose readings from sweat are as reliable as readings from blood.

"Sweat panels are not as robust as blood panels," she said.

Prasad hopes that this research will lead to frugal innovation--a simple, inexpensive wellness device--that anyone can buy.

"Our vision is for you to go to your store or Walmart and buy it from there."

Their vision also includes ending finger pricking to test blood-glucose for type 2 diabetics.

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