Prof. Paul Braun and graduate student Chunjie Zhang at the University of Illinois have created a new color-changing hydrogel that may soon allow continuous monitoring the blood glucose levels of both diabetic patients and hospital patients.
The hydrogel contains boronic acid compounds and photonic crystal beads. The acid binds to glucose naturally, which means that the gel will attract glucose present in its environment and swell in size. Following its expansion, the structure of the crystal beads is altered, which in turn changes the way in which they reflect light. Thus, the gel changes from blue color to green and then red.
The concentration of glucose can be measured by analyzing the exact hue of the gel.
"The systems available today all have some combination of limited sensitivity, limited precision and frequent recalibration," Prof Braun said. "Using today's systems, you can determine trends in glucose levels, but without frequent recalibration, you don't have the accuracy or reliability to use that to make insulin dosing decisions or to drive autonomous dosing."
The research detailing the process of hydrogel is published in the journal Advanced Materials.