RaFrBio: Painless Solution for Diabetic and Glucose Monitoring
by Patrizia Savi, Stefano Gabetti, Muhammad Yasir from RaFrBio project of Politecnico di Torino
According to the World Health Organization, diabetes affects more than 400 million people worldwide, with alarming projections for the years to come. While in the past diabetes was considered a disease of rich countries, in the past decade the incidence of diabetes has risen faster in low and middle-income countries than in high-income ones. The highest-income countries are subjected to the highest percentage of obese people in the adult population, but the highest mortality rate is found in the lower-income regions, testifying to the importance of early treatment of the disease. Patients affected by diabetes must monitor their glycemia levels multiple times per day. But fast and accurate monitoring, which is fundamental to avoid the deterioration of their clinical condition, is nowadays achieved at a conspicuous cost.
The solutions available today to measure glucose concentration are all based on the extraction of blood from the human body. The standard for in-home glycemia testing is “finger pricking”: patients have to pierce a finger with a needle, put a drop of blood on a test strip, and place the test strip in a glucometer. This causes both physical and psychological pain to the patient, with the discomfort which is exacerbated by the repetition of the procedure.
Therefore, the development of new easy-to-use glucose meters has become an important topic of research in the biomedical field. Non-invasiveness in glucose sensing is the most sought-after feature in such devices, unlocking the possibility to perform continuous glycemia monitoring (CGM) without relying on painful user interactions.
In the light of such a demand for innovation, the RaFrBio team is devising a novel technology for non-invasive glycemia monitoring, based on a high-sensitivity Radio Frequency (RF) sensor, to retrieve glucose information from alternative corporal fluids, such as sweat, saliva, or tears.
The RaFrBio solution differs from the currently available technologies (e.g.: impedance sensors and optical sensors) as it is based on a different principle. It involves an antenna operating in the radio frequency (RF) regime and an enzymatic/proteic compound able to capture glucose molecules from a droplet of fluid. The presence of glucose on the antenna can then lead to a resonance frequency shift, allowing the detection of their concentration.
The most important advantage with respect to other impedance-based sensing techniques is the greater sensibility, which allows for accurate glucose measurement on fluids different from the blood.
In addition, the technology enables the possibility of continuous glucose monitoring. This is key for allowing the early detection of the onset of a glycemic crisis, triggering a timely intervention. Once miniaturized, the sensor could be embedded in a wearable device interfaced to a cloud-based mobile app. In this way, real-time data would be made available not only to the patient but also to the family doctor. Thanks to the possibility of continuous monitoring, once perfected the system could interface with insulin pumps, automatizing chemical delivery and reducing user interactions.
RaFrBio technology also contributes to lowering the costs for the end-user. In fact, when monitoring glycemia with the finger pricking technique, the patient has to spend a lot of money on test-strips, as they are disposable. Each year, the expenditure on test stripes can oscillate between 50 and 200 times the cost of the analyzer device. The RaFrBio technology paradigm is based on a sensor that will not require the use of disposable accessories, eliminating this recurrent cost.
In conclusion, RaFrBio technology will help diabetes patients periodically measure their glycemia while avoiding any pain caused by finger pricking and at the same time cutting the recurring costs required by current technologies. The triple advantage offered by RaFrBio technology can constitute a breakthrough for the quality of life of people with diabetes. They will switch from a painful, costly, and mentally tiring procedure to a painless, cost-efficient, and unnoticeable one.