New Sensors To Help Detect Diabetes And Other Diseases Non-Invasively

Recently developed by researchers at University of Florida, is an optic gas sensor that may use breath or saliva analysis to detect diabetes and breast cancer respectively. The device uses volatile markers, such as alkanes, acetones or nitric oxide, to give doctors clues about what is happening inside the body and thus be used as a diagnostic tool. Researchers say that this sensor is one of the many developments in developing a non-invasive device to test diabetes and replace finger-prick devices that are widely being used today.

The sensor device known as the opto-fluidic ring resonator (OFRR) is an optical gas sensor that consists of a polymer-lined glass tube that guides the flow of a gas vapour and a ring resonator that detects the molecules that pass through the glass tube. As the gas vapour enters the device, molecules in the vapour separate and react to the polymer lining. Light makes thousands of loops around the gas or liquid sample thus interacting with the gas vapour. These repetitive interactions enable the detection of vapour molecules down to a very small quantity. Tests with the sensor contradict long-held assumptions that glucose levels in the breath are too small for accurate assessment.

In currently employed techniques, measuring pH in a patient’s breath requires the patient to blow into a tube for 20 minutes to collect enough condensate for a measurement. At 100 microns, or 100 millionths of a meter, the UF sensor is so small that the moisture from one breath is enough to get a pH or glucose concentration reading — in under five seconds.

“This is an important development in the field of biomedical sensors and a real breakthrough,” said Michael Shur, professor of solid-state electronics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “Professors Fan Ren and Steve Pearton have made pioneering contributions to materials and device studies of nitrides, and now their work has led to the development of sensors that might improve quality of life for millions of patients.”

The team has published 15 peer-reviewed papers on different versions of the sensor, most recently in this month’s edition of IEEE Sensors Journal.

Written by Snigdha Taduri for Biomed-ME