Laser Lights may be the End of Diabetic Finger Pricks

Diabetes, a disease that causes difficulty with blood sugar regulation, requires patients to measure their blood glucose levels multiple times a day. Until recently, the only way to obtain this measurement was through a painful finger prick in order to gain a blood sample that would be fed into a meter to determine the blood glucose level. This method is not only painful, but also subjects patients to a risk of infection through the open wound. Japanese scientists have discovered a new way of measuring blood glucose levels that could offer diabetics a safer, non-invasive option.

Yuji Matsuura and his team of researchers from Tohoku University’s Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering have found a way to use far-infrared light (FIL) to measure blood glucose levels without ever having to break the skin. Previously, near-infrared light (NIL) had been used to attempt this but didn’t offer a practical solution as its absorption was weak and not nearly deep enough. The wavelength of FIL is 10 microns which gives a much stronger absorption. To circumvent the issue of deep absorption, the researchers developed a way to take the measurement from the inside of a patient’s mouth. Employing a small prism attached to the ends of flexible hollow-optical fibers to radiate FIL, the fibers are applied to the oral mucosa which is a far thinner layer than skin elsewhere on the body. The thin mucosa layer with the strong wavelengths enables an accurate reading measuring a less than 20% error rate.

Scientists believe that the low error rate and the non-invasive nature of this type of measurement make it qualify for successful clinical use. Diabetics may see a low-cost, compact blood glucose measurement system available in the near future. With no pain and no risk of infection, the FIL system would provide a far more comfortable method of managing the disease.

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