It's a ritual that many people with diabetes go through several times a day, pricking their fingers with a needle, and testing their blood sugar levels. But soon, a new system could accomplish the same task, with one important difference.
"Echo has licensed technology that came out of M.I.T. originally where you can permeate the skin very quickly, very painlessly without the use of a needle and then apply a biosensor," said Patrick Mooney, M.D., the CEO Echo Therapeutics.
Mooney helped develop Echo Therapeutics' glucose monitoring system. Instead of a needle, the system uses a hand with a small abrasive tip.
"As the tip spins, it removes the dead layer of skin painlessly by process known as microdermabrasion," said Mooney. "You feel nothing. I mean, it's a pain free process because the device is only permeating the dead skin, the outer most layer of skin. It's like dandruff."
He says sensors detect when the device has reached living skin cells just beneath the surface. Next, the patient activates a monitoring patch, placed over the dime sized abrasion.
"What you would do now is close the lid to the biosensor," said Mooney.
Designers say biosensors can detect minute amounts of glucose released by the tiny blood vessels just under the skin. An enzyme in the patch then turns the glucose into electronic signals. Readings drawn from those signals can be relayed wirelessly to a range of handheld devices.
"Wireless communication to some type of receiving monitor that will give you continuous blood sugar levels and will alert you when blood sugar gets too high or gets too low," said Mooney.
The current sensors are designed to be worn for 24 hours, but that a second generation system could employ two-day patches. Potentially changing the daily lives of an estimated 24 million diabetics in the U.S. alone.
"No more needles? Sure, I mean, it's a life changer and they recognize it's a life changer," said Mooney.
The company says it has completed a series of clinical trials, and expects to apply for FDA approval by the end of this year. If they're successful, they say the first use of the monitors would most likely take place in a hospital setting, before being released on the consumer market.
Written and produced by Tim Didion