New Test for Diabetes Using Saliva and Tears

In what might revolutionize the world of diagnostics, scientists have developed a new diagnostic tool for detecting diabetes using saliva and tears. The revolutionary research was carried out at Purdue University’s Nanotechnology center and the finding published in the Advanced Functional Materials journal. This project has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Office of Naval Research.These color-enhanced scanning electron microscope images show nanosheets resembling tiny rose petals. The nanosheets are key components of a new type of biosensor that can detect minute concentrations of glucose in saliva, tears and urine. The technology might eventually help to eliminate or reduce the frequency of using pinpricks for diabetes testing. (Jeff Goecker, Purdue University)

A brief account of the study

Under the leadership of Dr Jonathan Claussen, a team of scientists who worked on this project aimed at eliminating the painful procedure of testing glucose levels from blood samples. Their focus was developing biosensors to detect minute quantities of glucose in the tears, saliva and urine samples of patients, to reduce the use of pinprick method for testing diabetes. The currently available sensors in the glucometer market are highly sensitive, but still use blood to determine the glucose levels. This first-of-its-kind sensor is a unique one that has options to sense glucose from all the 4 serums of humans namely, blood, tears, saliva and urine.

What is within the sensor

The new biosensor (glucometer) is comprises of 3 parts:

  1. Layers of nanosheets fabricated from graphene
  2. A layer of Platinum nanoparticles
  3. A layer of the enzyme glucose oxidase

The working of this sensor is very simple. The graphene and platinum form the electrodes which sense the peroxidase formed when the glucose (in the sample) reacts with the oxidase enzyme. Even low concentration of glucose (0.3 micro molar) in the sample can be detected accurately using this sensor.

The technology and its applications

  1. The latest biosensor technology is useful in more ways than one. From diabetes testing to the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, this technology can be used even in breath analyzers to monitor alcohol.
  2. The same technology can be used as the base for detecting various diseases. The only component to change is the enzyme that can be specific to the biochemical to be detected.
  3. The biosensor is highly portable and easy to use. It is versatile, fast and highly reliable.
  4. Another important aspect of the sensor is that it can differentiate between other electrically active compounds present in the sample and thus provide accurate results.

The future definitely belongs to nanotechnology and whenever this biosensor is released into the market, it is sure to benefit the huge number of patients who are subjected to blood tests every single day of their lives.