New test for diabetics: medicine's big thing?

FRESNO, Calif.

They do it again and again and again! Sometimes 10 times a day! Diabetics know the drill. Each finger prick tells them if their blood sugar levels are too high or too low. Right now, it's the only way to find out, and it can be inconvenient and painful. Doctor Jeffrey Thomas Labelle knows the frustration firsthand. His dad had type 2 diabetes.

"I asked him all the time, 'how many times are you finger-pricking?' and he'd be like, 'oh you know, 4-6.'" Jeffrey Thomas Labelle, Ph.D., an assistant research professor at Arizona State University, told Action News.

So doctor Labelle and his colleagues at the mayo clinic have been working on a way that could one day make blood sugar monitoring easier for patients by using fluid from the eye.

"It's really amazing. It's another extension of the blood system," Dr. Labelle said.

They've created a device that can extract and measures tear fluid. The idea is patients put it on the white part of the eye called the conjunctiva.

"And you can get a small volume of about five micro-liters or less in a few seconds," Dr. Labelle said.

The fluid then travels to another region where a sensor reads blood sugar levels. Studies show if it's done correctly, the tear fluid reading is just as accurate as a blood sugar reading. But doctor Labelle says there are some challenges. The test has to be performed quickly and efficiently without letting the tear sample evaporate.

"So it's a lot easier to get samples from your eye, but it's a lot harder to measure them." Dr. Labelle said.

Doctors hope to solve these issues and have the device on the market in the next three to five years. A big advance that could make life easier for millions. Doctor Labelle says he believes this device won't cost any more or any less than the current equipment needed to perform finger pricks. He says they would eventually like to implant the device into the patient either through a patient's contact lenses or directly in the tear duct itself to measure the tear fluid as it's coming out of the eye.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Joe Kullman
Communications/Media Relations Officer
Arizona State University

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