A world-first, painless diabetes test could soon be in the hands of consumers following a $ 6.3 million funding to establish the device’s first manufacturing plant.
Funded by the Australian Government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative, the world-class facility will help transition two decades of laboratory research to retail shelves to benefit more than 460 million people living with diabetes worldwide.
Newcastle University physicist and research leader Professor Paul Dastoor said the first devices will roll off the production line in 2023.
For diabetic patients, who until now have had to prick their finger several times a day to control their glucose levels, this grant could not have come at a more appropriate time.
Saliva glucose biosensor: how it works
The saliva test makes the painful fingerstick tests for type 1 and type 2 diabetes obsolete, representing the first major innovation since the blood glucose test was developed in the 1960s.
Professor Dastoor attributes this, in part, to the inspiration of his wife, who as an elementary school teacher helped the young children in her care to control their blood glucose levels.
“It’s a heartbreaking scenario when the lunch bell rings and everyone runs to the playground except for a few unfortunate ones who are left behind to hand over their finger for a blood test at every meal,” said Professor Dastoor.
“Our vision was to create a world where no one needed to bleed to eat.”
With glucose concentrations in saliva 100 times lower than in blood, that was easier said than done.
“One of our key challenges was the complete unavailability of glucose in saliva. It exists in minute concentrations, so you need to develop an incredibly powerful platform to detect it. Saliva also contains a plethora of other substances, so it must then be switched off from a lot of ‘noise’ to make sure the results are accurate, ”said Professor Dastoor.
Professor Dastoor said the sensor, similar in size to a stick of gum and considerably thinner, was incredibly powerful and detected substances that exist in saliva in minute concentrations.
“With this highly sensitive platform, we can now detect glucose at the levels found in saliva for the first time,” he explained.
Coated with a natural enzyme, glucose oxidase, the biosensor interacts with saliva and produces a reaction that generates an electrical current. This current can be detected and measured to reveal high-precision glucose levels that could be delivered via a smartphone app and data stored in the cloud.
Professor Dastoor said the sensor could be developed for application in 130 indications, including tumor markers, hormones and allergens.
“The biosensor is a ‘platform technology’, which means that it will be widely applicable to detect a variety of substances that identify a variety of diseases. We are already looking for substances that identify cancer, hormones and allergies, “he explained.
The sensor could also help with urgently needed new diagnostic tests to help eradicate COVID-19. (His team is partnering with Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering to help develop the sensor platform as a non-invasive COVID test.)
“The Wyss Institute has developed a smart antifouling coating that can be incorporated into the biosensor platform, offering a new diagnostic tool for COVID-19 that can be printed on plastic strips on a large scale.”
“Seeing the biosensor on the shelves, changing lives will be immensely satisfying, that’s why we do the work we do,” said Professor Dastoor about this next step for his team’s innovative technology.
(LOOK the University of Newcastle video for this story below).
Fountain: University of Newcastle Australia
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