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The competition for a continuous glucose monitoring system that can replace the classic finger prick blood tests for diabetes is heating up. Several new products have come to the market this year that use various techniques to test blood glucose levels continuously without the need for a blood test, but several have faltered with complaints of inaccurate readings and skin irritation.
One company hoping to be the exception to the rule is Echo Therapeutics. Based in Franklin, Massachusetts, Echo Therapeutics is developing a biochemical sensor-based wireless, needle-free transdermal continuous glucose monitoring system called Symphony tCGM for diabetics and for use in hospital critical care units. Their aim is to become the first "noninvasive" glucose meter to successfully come to the market.
The Symphony tCGM has three basic components: a Prelude SkinPrep System that shaves away the dead outermost surface of the skin (microdermabrasion), leaving a dime-size spot; a glucose biosensor that is applied at that surface, and a wireless handheld device that reads glucose levels from the biosensor.
Echo Therapeutics chairman and CEO Patrick Mooney explains how the Prelude works: As the Prelude removes skin and hair that could interfere with the biosensor's reading, it passes tiny electric pulses into the skin. Based on the response to these pulses, the Prelude can determine when it has reached live underlying skin cells that allow the biosensor to provide a more accurate reading. The patient then applies the disk-shaped biosensor to the patch of skin prepped by the Prelude. The membrane on the biosensor's surface detects glucose as it diffuses out of the body's capillaries. The sensor contains an enzyme that reacts with the glucose and relays the indication as an electric signal. The impulse passes wirelessly to a handheld device, which records the information and monitors the readings. Each sensor can be used for two days before being replaced by a fresh one, and then either used in the same spot or another Prelude-treated location.
One of the promising uses of the Symphony System is during surgery. Researchers at Tufts Medical Center in Boston tested the device during surgeries over several years, where accurate continuous testing of glucose levels is essential for all patients, not just those with diabetes. Michael England, the center's chief of adult cardiac anesthesia, co-authored a study indicating that the accuracy of Symphony's blood glucose measurements was comparable with the more common practice of drawing and testing blood samples.
The need in the market is great right now for both patients and medical professionals to use in their practices and in surgeries. The days of having to use a needle to test blood glucose are numbered, and the need for an effective continuous monitoring system is becoming increasingly essential as the number of patients with diabetes grows. Says Robert Langer of MIT, "Everyone I speak to in the diabetes field feels transdermal monitoring is very badly needed."
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