Saliva-based test for diabetes developed by Australian researchers

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 11th March 2015
Saliva-based test for diabetes developed by Australian researchers
Saliva-based test for diabetes developed by Australian researchers

Australian researchers at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales have developed a salvia-based glucose test using a 2D printer, which they said could spell the end of needles and blood tests for people with diabetes.

The simple-to-use test, which detects concentrations of glucose and is up to 100 times more sensitive than current blood sensors, integrates bio-sensors or chemical signatures into printed transistors.

Needle-free tests could help patients measure more frequently

Professor Paul Dastoor and his team at the University’s Centre of Organic Electronics focus their research on the development of new electronic devices at the intersection between semi-conductors and plastics, addressing a diverse range of global issues including the energy crisis and mining safety. The research team behind the first energy-efficient devices from water-soluble solar paint materials is now turning its attention to diabetes and another revolutionary device, which may mean needle-free glucose tests.

“By 2020 it is predicted there will be 500 million people in the world with diabetes,” Professor Dastoor said. “The creation of the non-invasive test for diabetics has been the Holy Grail in diabetes research for decades,” he said.

The usual way of testing for glucose relies on a finger prick to draw blood for testing. The researchers said that many diabetics find needles unpleasant and tended to avoid measuring their levels as often as they should.

“Because we have developed paint with semi-conducting particles, we can now ‘download’ electronic designs, print them relatively cheaply from an inkjet printer and, in principle, build any electronic device,” Professor Dastoor said.

“On this principle, we have developed a saliva-based test of glucose levels for diabetic  patients using a reel to reel printer, potentially making blood tests a thing of the past,” Professor Dastoor said. “We print electrical components using an ink that is a semi-conductor, mixing in the enzyme which will detect the presence and level of glucose when a diabetic places a sample of their saliva on the test,” he said.

Investigating ‘large scale’ printing of tests

Estimated to cost as little as one cent per test, Professor Dastoor said he and his team were now investigating the logistics of printing the tests on a large scale.

Professor Dastoor said his team’s research had “implications for the medical sector and for communities around the world”.

“Sensors that can identify different chemical signatures have potential for applications in many other fields,” Professor Dastoor said.