New diabetes test could make blood-testing obsolete

New diabetes test could make blood-testing obsolete

A new diabetes test could soon make the finger-prick testing of blood glucose obsolete.

Aussie researchers from the University of Newcastle have developed the “world-first, pain-free diabetes test” from 20 years of research by a team led by Professor Paul Dastoor.

“What we’ve done is to develop a way of creating biosensors, that we can print using reel-to-reel printing equipment,” Professor Dastoor said.

The “lickable” test works using a plastic strip coating in a natural enzyme that interacts with saliva and produces an electrical current.

This current can then be detected and measured to determine glucose levels with high accuracy, with the results able to be delivered via a smartphone app.

“We’re able to test and have sensitivities at the concentration levels that glucose is in your saliva,” Professor Dastoor said.

“And, so, we don’t need to test blood, we will now be able to use saliva to test for glucose.”

Elaine Staunton, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in her 30s, is overjoyed that the finger-prick tests could soon be replaced.

“That would be marvellous if we could get that, especially for children,” Ms Staunton told ABC Newcastle.

While the diagnosis didn’t come as a surprise to her, what did was the stigma associated with the condition.

At a work function, Ms Staunton was victimised for needing to monitor her blood glucose levels, which are controlled by insulin injections.

“I’ve always been taught to do my insulin when my meal’s in front of me,” Ms Staunton said.

“I was hauled over the coals after the luncheon and told I wasn’t to inject myself in public and, if I had to do it, I had to do it in the toilet.

“I was absolutely devastated. I cried all the way home and made the decision on the way home that I couldn’t go back there.”

Now in her 50s, Ms Staunton said anything that would reduce the need to draw blood up to four times a day would be a welcome relief.

“That’s a big thing, no blood,” she said.

Professor Dastoor said the new tests would have positive health outcomes.

“That’s huge because … having to test your blood puts people off doing their testing, and that then leads to poor health outcomes,” he said.

The inspiration for the test came from Professor Dastoor’s wife, who would help young children monitor their glucose levels during the day as a primary school teacher.

“It’s a heartbreaking scenario, where the lunch bell rings and everyone runs to the playground bar an unfortunate few, who stay back to surrender their finger for blood testing at every meal time,” he said.

“Our vision was to create a world where no one needs to bleed in order to eat.”

The technology will be rolled out on a commercial scale, with the Australian government announcing $6.3 million in funding to build a manufacturing facility for the tests in the Hunter by the end of 2023.

Image: University of Newcastle, Elaine Staunton

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