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Chula develops smartwatch to beat diabetes

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Diabetics will soon have a powerful new weapon to fight their condition. The Metallurgy and Materials Science Research Institute at Chulalongkorn University is poised to launch a cutting-edge health innovation – a wristwatch that checks blood-sugar levels from sweat in real-time.

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Chula researchers say the watch is accurate, not painful, and less expensive than imported equipment. It should be available on the market soon, they add.

“Medical reports indicate that the level of glucose in sweat is directly related to blood sugar,” said Dr Natnadda Rodthongkam, deputy director of the Metallurgy and Materials Science Research Institute.

So, we used this finding to innovate a device that helps tell the patient’s glucose level in real-time. This is very important to the daily life of diabetic patients who must regularly monitor and control their blood sugar levels.”

It also reduces the burden on healthcare workers and saves time and risk involved in regular trips to the hospital, Natnadda added.

Up to 5 million Thais suffer from diabetes, according to the Diabetes Association of Thailand. Diabetics experience muscle weakness, among other symptoms.

Currently, the standard method to determine blood-sugar level is by drawing blood from the fingertip, together with a lactate test. Patients need to fast for at least one hour before they can draw blood.

But the watch should change all that.

“Knowing their real-time blood sugar and lactate levels will help patients take care of themselves, adjust their behaviour, or seek immediate medical attention before [their condition] becomes dangerous.

We therefore devised a method that is faster, more accurate, and doesn’t need fasting or drawing blood,” said Prof Natnadda.

Developed by the Chula team in partnership with the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), the watch uses a special material that absorbs sweat and is sensitive to glucose and lactate enzymes.

“This special yarn transmits the data obtained to a test sheet inserted inside the smartwatch case to compare the measurement against a standard Calibration Curve.

If the blood glucose is low, the colour will be light, if high, the colour will be dark, while the lactate value will appear even darker in colour,” Natnadda explained.

Published : April 05, 2021

By : THE NATION