Microneedle sensors may allow real-time monitoring of body chemistry including diabetes

Researchers from North Carolina State University, Sandia National Laboratories, and the University of California, San Diego have developed new technology that uses microneedles to allow doctors to detect real-time chemical changes in the body – and to continuously do so for an extended period of time.

“We’ve loaded the hollow channels within microneedles with electrochemical sensors that can be used to detect specific molecules or pH levels,” says Dr. Roger Narayan, co-author of a paper describing the research, and a professor in the joint biomedical engineering department of NC State’s College of Engineering and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Existing technology relies on taking samples and testing them, whereas this approach allows continuous monitoring, Narayan explains. “For example, it could monitor glucose levels in a diabetic patient,” Narayan says. Microneedles are very small needles in which at least one dimension – such as length – is less than one millimeter.

“The idea is that customized microneedle sensor arrays could be developed and incorporated into wearable devices, such as something like a wristwatch, to help answer specific medical or research questions,” Narayan says. “It’s also worth pointing out that microneedles are not painful.”

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