Diabetics may soon find themselves within arms reach of the sugars they’ve been missing.
Thanks to the work of a group of researchers from South Korea, a wearable patch has been developed that provides the wearer with two major benefits. It monitors the glucose level of the blood, and, thanks to a number of microneedles built into the patch, it can even deliver important insulin to the wearer as needed.
This isn’t the first patch that’s been created for such a purpose, however it seems to be the most efficient. This version uses a similar base material, graphene. It’s a strong and flexible material made of carbon atoms and has often been used in wearable devices such as this. However, properties of the graphene material have made it hard for similar patches to actually detect changes in a wearer's sugar levels. In order to counteract this flaw, the developers added gold particles and a surrounding gold mesh to the graphene.
While applied to the skin, the patch itself captures sweat from its wearer. Sensors within it identify the sweat's pH and temperature changes in order to detect elevated glucose levels. If an abnormal reading is taken, heaters in the patch dissolve a layer of its coating in order to expose the microneedles that then release the needed drugs. This medicine, metformin, is then able to regulate sugar levels in the blood. As it’s been explained by Popular Science, you would either feel nothing from a microneedle or, at the most, a slight tingle. Blood sugar readings are also wirelessly transmitted to a mobile device for the person to read and monitor.
This kind of improved care would be huge for an American society that’s seen a major increase in diabetic patients over the last 35 years. On average, we’ve seen a 4% increase each year since 1980. Below is a chart showing the disease’s growth over time.
Of the more than 22 million who suffer from the disease the majority are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. While the cause of Type 1 isn’t yet clear, data has suggested that there are a number of things we can do, and often times don’t do, to prevent Type 2. It’s been linked to obesity, genetics and a sedentary lifestyle. To date, no cure has been produced for either type.
While the American lifestyle has negatively affected the health of more than 20 million Americans, it has provided a boon to pharmaceutical companies. In the US alone, more than $132 billion dollars is spent annually by patients on the medicine and medical devices required to manage the condition. Changes to technology and treatment could certainly put a dent in such revenue.
The cost of this new patch is still to be determined, and, with the tremendous number of tests that still need to be done and approvals that still need to be had, it’ll be some time before we know how such a new technology could affect the state of the industry. Until then, we’ll have to see if our national health continues along a similar trend. If it does we could have a country with 30 million diabetics in six years. It’s a trend that is sure to leave a sour taste in your mouth.