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Las vigas de la microonda podían un día substituir la prueba del palillo del dedo para la diabetes

por Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | April 15, 2010
Radiofrequency technology
may one day measure
blood sugar levels
Finger prick tests to check for blood glucose levels can be troubling and even expensive for those with diabetes, some of whom have to stick themselves in the finger up to five times or more a day. Now, a team of researchers say they have built a machine that might one day help do away with that.

Baylor University researchers announced that they have developed a portable device that beams electromagnetic waves through the skin to gauge blood glucose levels, no sticking required.

"We have demonstrated the feasibility of measuring glucose non-invasively," Randall Jean, Ph.D., associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Baylor in Waco, Texas, tells DOTmed News.

With the device, patients would hold a sensor in their hand. The sensor then discharges a burst of electromagnetic waves, or microwaves, through the skin. The waves move at different speeds, and by measuring how fast the signals travel through the tissue, the sensor can judge its electrical properties. With some sophisticated signal processing, it can then determine the glucose level in the blood, explains Jean.

The goal is to get the device emitting waves at a low frequency, somewhere between that of wireless communication devices and the frequency of an AM radio station. At low frequencies, the signals are farther apart, and therefore easier to distinguish, Jean says.

"The lower the better. There is an amplification effect on the electrical properties down at the lower frequencies," observes Jean.

SHRINKING FOR PORTABILITY

The team began the project over five years ago, but the original device was bulky and expensive, and needed at least two people to carry it, says Jean. The current "miniaturized" version of the device, with all the equipment, is half as big as a laptop. But the hope is to further shrink it to the size of a cell phone, he says.

The small size is important, as the researchers need to carry the device to clinics and dialysis centers, where they hope to conduct large-scale trials to further prove it works.

Up until now, most of the patients have been relatively healthy volunteers. The real challenge to see how accurate the device is will come from severe diabetics whose glucose levels cover a wide range, says Jean.

But so far, preliminary results suggest the device is fairly accurate, with readings near the true range plus or minus 10 percent, according to Jean. Many commercial glucose readers have accuracies in the plus or minus 20 percent range, he says. "We think we can do better than that," he adds.