Researchers develop new technique to measure blood glucose using smartphone | Technology News

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The US government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology on Tuesday announced that its researchers have developed a technique to use the magnetometer on an ordinary cellphone to measure the concentration of glucose in blood with high accuracy.

Pretty much all modern cell phones have a magnetometer that acts like a compass, detecting the direction of Earth’s magnetic field. This is very useful for navigation and other purposes. However, the researchers were able to use it for a completely different purpose. The researchers believe that the smartphone can be used to measure a host of different molecules and biomarkers in blood.

In the proof of concept study, the researchers strapped a tiny well containing a solution (used instead of blood for testing) to a cellphone along with a strip of hydrogel. Hydrogel is a porous material that swells when it is put in water. They also embedded tiny magnetic particles within the hydrogel after engineering it to react to the presence of glucose or pH levels (acidity measurement) by expanding and contracting. Changes in pH levels can sometimes indicate different disorders.

Image credit: NIST

When the hydrogel particles expand or shrink, they move the magnetic particles closer to or farther away from the magnetometer in the cell phone. And the magnetometer could detect the corresponding changes in the strength of the magnetic field. They claim to have used this strategy to measure even extremely small glucose concentrations. Such high sensitivity is not required for at-home glucose monitoring, but this technology could, in the future, allow for testing glucose in saliva, which contains a much smaller concentration of sugar.

The NIST team said that the smart hydrogels they used are inexpensive and relatively easy to fabricate. In theory, these could be sold as cheap test kits that could then be attached to your phone to use a particular app to measure your blood glucose level. Since this technique does not use any electronics or technology beyond that found in a smartphone, it could potentially act as a low-cost test method compared to currently available alternatives.

The results of their research have been published in the journal Nature Communications. 

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First uploaded on: 03-04-2024 at 16:35 IST


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