News Feature | November 22, 2013

Monitoring Blood Glucose Levels With A Breathalyzer

By Jenna Tripke

The link between acetone and blood glucose levels in diabetics could provide a new way to monitor blood glucose in diabetics, according to research presented last week at the 2013 American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Ronny Priefer, PhD., of Western New England University, has developed a handheld monitoring device that uses multilayer nanotechnology to detect acetone in the breath of diabetes patients. This noninvasive method incorporates nanometer-thick films consisting of two polymers that react with acetone. The polymers crosslink, which alters the physicochemical nature of the film and quantifies the acetone and, as a result, blood-glucose levels.

“Breathalyzers are a growing field of study because of their potential to have a significant positive impact on patients’ quality of life and compliance with diabetes monitoring. What makes our technology different is that it only accounts for acetone and doesn’t react with other components in the breath,” Priefer said in an AAPS announcement.

“The breathalyzer we currently have is about the size of a book, but we’re working with an engineer, Dr. Michael Rust at Western New England University, to make it smaller, more similar to the size of a breathalyzer typically used to detect blood alcohol content levels,” he added

The breathalyzer technology has other shortcomings that will need to be overcome, including inconsistent results due to the natural humidity in one’s breath, high temperature requirements, and lack of selectivity.

According to a report on MassLive, two Western New England University clinics are lined up to perform clinical trials on volunteers. The trials will begin in late 2014 or early 2015 and will last eight months. The university has already applied for a patent for the device.

On the subject of needle-free diabetes treatments, researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently developed a nanotechnology-based technique that could help diabetics painlessly administer insulin every few days using a small ultrasound device, rather than suffering several daily injections.