Patients with diabetes can test new glucose monitoring device that just might make finger prick test obsolete

July 23, 2001

Epidemic increase of diabetes reported in persons of all ages; particularly youths and minorities

The University of Maryland Joslin Diabetes Center will be one of 10 centers nationwide studying a potential new tool that, if effective, would be "music to the fingertips" of anyone diagnosed with diabetes - a painless, needle-free glucose-monitoring device.

New state-of-the-art technology the size of a standard computer printer that uses infrared light is being tested as a way for people with diabetes to get an accurate gauge of their glucose levels, an important task both in managing their disease and preventing complications.

"The biggest obstacle we face in controlling blood sugar levels is the discomfort that comes with the standard finger prick tests," says Francesco Celi, M.D., a diabetes specialist at the University of Maryland Joslin Diabetes Center and clinical coordinator of the study.

"If we can find an effective, non-invasive monitoring method, it will be far easier to get patients to adhere to the standard of care. Currently, it's recommended that people with diabetes check their blood sugar levels three times a day. The average is once a day, at best," adds Dr. Celi, who is also a clinical instructor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The new monitoring device works using infrared light technology. A patient places his or her forearm on the machine, called a Diasensor 2000, and an infrared beam shines on the skin and is able to painlessly measure sugar in the blood to obtain a non-invasive glucose reading.

The Diasensor 2000, already approved for use in Europe, has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The University of Maryland Joslin Diabetes Center will be recruiting 40 participants for the Diasensor 2000 clinical trial, some of whom will use the experimental device in their homes throughout the nine-month study. The researchers will evaluate the effectiveness of the Diasensor 2000 device compared to the standard finger-stick test.

"What we're really looking for is a device that can replace the finger prick test altogether," explains Dr. Celi. "If we can make testing easier and still get the information that's needed to monitor the condition, we may make headway in finding patients who are willing to become more committed to their health care and to the management of their diabetes."

Type 2 diabetes is a disease that continues to grow at an epidemic rate - and is affecting persons at younger and younger ages, including children and adolescents. Experts attribute the increase to a more sedentary lifestyle and a diet high in fat and calories.

"Type 2 diabetes used to be a disease that developed predominantly after age 50," explains Alan Shuldiner, M.D., director of the Joslin Diabetes Center and professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "But recent studies by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a 40 percent increase in diabetes among people ages 40 to 49 during just the last eight years and there has been a shocking 70 percent increase in diabetes in persons ages 30 to 39. Minority populations," he continues, "including African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans are being hit particularly hard."

Physicians routinely advise people with diabetes to coordinate their food intake and physical activity in conjunction with their blood sugar levels. Tight blood sugar control can effectively prevent severe complications, such as kidney failure, vision loss and heart disease.

Anyone interested in the Diasensor trial should call 1-800-492-5538.

University of Maryland Medical Center

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