The Daily Campus

According to the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 25.8 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. This statistic includes both Type I and Type II diabetes. Diabetes is a serious, life-changing disease that requires blood sugar levels to be monitored many times a day. However, here at the university a group of research professors are developing an implantable, wireless biosensor that holds the potential of changing the face of this disease.

The research is being conducted by the laboratory teams of Board of Trustees distinguished professor of pharmaceutics Diane Burgess, chemistry professor Fotios Papadimitrakopoulos and engineering professor Faquir Jain. The ultimate goal of the project is to develop a small, wireless and completely implantable biosensor that will monitor diabetic patients’ blood sugar levels. This device will eliminate the use of a lancing device to extract a blood sample in order to check the blood sugar levels in a meter.

The model biosensor is about one-third of the diameter of a penny in size. The pint-size characteristic is important to minimize tissue damage in the person when the biosensor is implanted on the underside of the forearm near the wrist. Tissue damage is not the only obstacle; it is also critical, for the comfort of the patient, to prevent the body’s natural reactions to foreign objects like pain, inflammation and redness.

To avoid these problems, part of the research is to develop a coating for the biosensor that will release a tissue response-modifying drug. The coating that is being developed has shown to prevent infection and inflammation for a few months. The device is estimated to be able to reside under the skin for about three months before needing to be replaced.

The biosensor will also have an inner membrane that will stimulate catalytic reactions when it interacts with glucose. The reactions generate an electrical signal that can be recorded wirelessly with a watch-like meter. The meter will display blood sugar levels graphically over time.

This innovative technology could change the face of diabetes because it could help people live a more comfortable life while still effectively treating the disease. Type I diabetics will have the option of having the biosensor integrated with an insulin pump, putting an end to painful finger pricks.

The biosensor will detect the blood sugar level and work in conjunction with the pump to distribute the necessary insulin needed to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

Meanwhile, an ambitious goal for Type II diabetics is to have the meter work to signal the person when they are partaking in activities or consuming foods that provoke spikes in blood sugar. If this new technology could bring awareness to Type II diabetics of these triggers, they could avoid them and effectively work in partnership with their body to rid themselves of diabetes. This biosensor could improve overall health and the quality of life for all diabetics.

This project is currently in the pre-clinical testing stage, but the researchers are hopeful they will be moving on to clinical trials and enter the market in the upcoming decade. Research projects as ingenious as this biosensor technology are taking place in labs all across our campus and are the reason why UConn is ranked among the top 20 public universities nation wide according to the U.S. News and World Report.