A way which draws substances into and out of the skin without pricking it makes for easier blood testing in diabetes. Iontophoresis is a relatively new method which uses the application of an electric field to draw molecules into and out of the skin's barrier without the need for an injection. It could mean taking blood samples without a syringe, and administering drugs without an injection.
Researchers at the University of Texas, tried to show just what can be done for people with diabetes using iontophoresis. There's already a monitoring device called 'Glucowatch' which extracts glucose through the skin using iontophoresis. This allows the constant monitoring of blood glucose that's necessary to keep diabetes in check. But at present the device has to be checked by also taking a blood sample, which limits its appeal.
The Texas team is now applying iontophoresis to take a sodium sample through the skin to replace this blood test. The result of this will be a needle-free glucose monitoring. The method is still in its early stages, but it's already looking extremely promising. Meanwhile, keep watching this space - for iontophoresis is also being developed as a drug delivery system.