“Smart” pacifier designed to measure babies’ glucose levels

Ben Coxworth

Although not yet trialled on babies, the pacifier has been tested on diabetic adults
Although not yet trialled on babies, the pacifier has been tested on diabetic adults.  University of California-San Diego. 

Because of infants’ soft, sensitive skin, it’s generally not a good idea to rig them up with medical biosensors that are taped directly to their body. Scientists have therefore developed what could be an alternative, in the form a pacifier that measures glucose levels within the tykes’ saliva.

The proof-of-concept device was created by a team led by Prof. Joseph Wang of the University of California-San Diego, and Prof. Alberto Escarpa from Spain’s Universidad de Alcalá.

Essentially, the idea is that as a baby sucks on the pacifier, its mouth movements pump saliva down a narrow channel in the gadget’s nipple. That liquid ends up in an electrochemical detection chamber in the base of the device, where an enzyme attached to an electrode strip converts any glucose from the saliva into a weak electrical signal.

That signal is in turn wirelessly detected using a smartphone app, which determines saliva glucose levels based on the strength of the signal. Glucose levels in the saliva correlate with those of the bloodstream.

Typically, in order to monitor an infant’s glucose levels utilizing current technology, the baby has to be taken to a hospital and hooked up to a skin-piercing sensor – it detects glucose within the interstitial fluid between their skin cells. It is hoped that once the pacifier technology is refined, it could provide a much less invasive and distressing means of obtaining the same data.

Although the device has yet to be tested on babies, it has already accurately measured changing glucose levels in adult volunteers with type 1 diabetes. Down the road, it may also be able to detect and measure biomarkers associated with other diseases.

The research is described in a paper that was recently published in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Source: American Chemical Society

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