Abbott develops Star Trek-like device to lessen pain of diabetes readings

1 Nov 2016

Dr Chris Thomas pictured at the Abbott FreeStyle Libre system launch in Dublin. Image: Shane O’Neill Photography

The new device created by Abbott measures glucose levels without the need for routine, painful finger-pricking.

A new glucose-sensing technology developed by Abbott is available in Ireland for the first time. It enables adults and children over four with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes to monitor their condition without painful finger pricks.

Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre system is designed to change how people with diabetes measure their glucose levels and ultimately achieve better health. The system consists of a small, round sensor worn on the back of the upper arm for up to 14 days.

Future Human

A handheld reader is scanned over the sensor to get a glucose result painlessly in less than one second, without the need to draw blood. In addition, the FreeStyle Libre system does not require a finger stick test for calibration, whereas other continuous glucose-monitoring systems might require two or more calibrations per day.

Each scan displays a real-time glucose result, a historical trend and the direction the glucose is heading. The reader holds up to 90 days of data, providing a historical snapshot of glucose levels over time.

Taking the pain out of diabetes monitoring

Abbott develops Star Trek-like device to lessen pain of diabetes

The Abbott Freestyle Libre device and sensors. Image: Abbott Laboratories

A person with diabetes typically self-monitors their glucose levels by pricking their fingers to draw a drop of blood, which is added to a test strip and inserted into a glucose meter. This needs to be done several times a day.

According to Dr Chris Thomas, research fellow and director of biosensor technology at Abbott, the handheld sensor uses wired enzyme technology with polymer to shuttle electrons, using the small amount of current to test glucose levels.

“The sensor is the size of a €2 coin and it sits in an ASIC on the skin. [It] transmits wirelessly using the same technology used in cardless payments and catches glucose readings wirelessly.

“The glucose readings are stored for eight hours and provide more information than any amount of finger-pricking.

“It takes a reading through RFID and transmits the data from the patch to the handheld reader.”

Thomas said that a starter pack of sensors will cost €59 while the reader device also costs €59.

Ownership of the device works out at around €120 based on disposable parts, which Thomas said over time works out less than the cost of finger sticks for continual monitoring.

“The scientists and engineers at Abbott have developed this most innovative technology to empower people living with diabetes to better manage diabetes,” said Barbara Scott, country manager of Abbott’s diabetes care business in Ireland.

“Convenient and discrete monitoring using the FreeStyle Libre system may encourage people with diabetes to check their glucose levels more often, giving them better understanding and control of their diabetes. We are delighted to bring this breakthrough/ revolutionary monitoring system to people with diabetes in Ireland.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years