Novel 3D-printed glucose biosensor developed by a research team could offer patients with diabetes a more convenient and effective means of keeping track of their glucose levels.
According to the researchers, people with diabetes most commonly monitor their disease with glucose meters that require constant finger pricking. Continuous glucose monitoring systems are an alternative, but they are not cost effective.
"Our 3D-printed glucose sensor will be used as a wearable sensor for replacing painful finger pricking. Since this is a non-invasive, needleless technique for glucose monitoring, it will be easier for children's glucose monitoring," said co-author Yuehe Lin from the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Washington State University in the US.
To build such sensors, manufacturers have used traditional manufacturing strategies, such as photolithography or screen printing. While these methods work, they have several drawbacks, including requiring the use of harmful chemicals and expensive cleanroom processing, the team said.
For the study, published in the journal, 'Analytica Chimica Acta,' the researchers used a method called direct-ink-writing (DIW), that involves printing "inks" out of nozzles to create intricate and precise designs at tiny scales.
The team printed a nanoscale material that is electrically conductive to create flexible electrodes.
The finding showed that their 3D-printed sensors did better at picking up glucose signals than the traditionally produced electrodes.
"3D printing can enable manufacturing of biosensors tailored specifically to individual patients," said Arda Gozen from the varsity.
For large-scale use, the printed biosensors will need to be integrated with electronic components on a wearable platform, the researcher said.
But manufacturers could use the same 3D-printer nozzles used for printing the sensors to print electronics and other components of a wearable medical device, helping to consolidate manufacturing processes and reduce costs, even more, he added.
The research team is now working to integrate the sensors into a packaged system that can be used as a wearable device for long-term glucose monitoring.