ICMR scoops for new diagnostic methods for diabetes

Can we monitor the glucose level in a diabetic from sweat sample or the tears? The idea may seem to be farsighted for now but young scientists from across the country are ready to experiment to find out a non-invasive method of blood glucose monitoring in a diabetic patient.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which is funding them, says the main aim is to have an indigenous technology that is cheaper and better. The council has also announced a personal award of Rs 20,000 to One lakh to the principal investigator 'if the idea is successful and results in international patent and protected'.

"We have received close to 35 ideas from different research bodies and institutions including the IITs for development of a non-invasive technology to diagnose and monitor the blood glucose level. This includes the use of saliva, sweat and tears from the body as a sample," said a senior ICMR official. He said that the projects are being sanctioned under a new scheme started by the council this year to accelerate medical innovation through which support shall be given to test and validate novel and highly creative ideas even if they have high probability of failure.

"All the fluids in the body contain sugar, whether it is the saliva or the sweat and tears. The main work involves developing an algorithm to assess the correlation between the percentage of sugar in the body fluid and the disease itself.

In case of blood glucose monitoring, we have standard parameters to diagnose and monitor the level of diabetes. For example, a person having blood glucose level between 100-126 mg/dl is considered pre-diabetic and those having higher levels of blood sugar are considered diabetics. We give medications accordingly," said Dr S K Wagnoo, senior consultant and diabetologist and endocrinologist, Apollo hospital.

Dr Anoop Misra, Chairman, National Diabetes Obesity and Cholestrol Foundation (N-DOC), added that most of the new non-invasive technologies are developed and they are very costly. "Given the high prevalence of diabetes in the country, development of indigenous technology is the need of the hour. There is no choice," said Misra.

A recent technological advancement for monitoring diabetes developed by a multi-national company involves putting a small censor under the skin and monitoring the glucose level with the help of a handheld device, which costs over Rs one lakh. In the traditional method, a blood glucose test is performed by piercing the skin (typically, on the finger) to draw blood, then applying the blood to a chemically active disposable 'test-strip'. Different manufacturers use different technology, but most systems measure an electrical characteristic, and use this to determine the glucose level in the blood.

Most people with Type 2 diabetes test at least once per day. Diabetics who use insulin (all Type 1 diabetes and many Type 2s) usually test their blood sugar more often (3 to 10 times per day), both to assess the effectiveness of their prior insulin dose and to help determine their next insulin dose.

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