An end to pin-prick tests? Trumpf VCSELs to enable wearable glucose sensors

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Similar to a smartwatch, the developed glucose monitor will be wearable on the wrist for the convenience of hundreds of millions of diabetics worldwide. (Image: Shutterstock/Chaay_Tee)

German firm Trumpf Photonic Components has entered into a partnership with Danish medical device manufacturer RSP Systems to develop a wrist-wearable device that monitors blood glucose levels using miniaturised laser technology.

The device could dramatically increase the quality of life for diabetics, who currently have to either prick their finger with a needle or wear an implant to monitor their glucose levels.

Trumpf will be bringing its expertise in miniature laser diodes – so-called VCSELs – to the partnership. Such lasers are already used in smartphones, smartwatches, digital data transmission and sensors for autonomous driving. 

"With our knowledge of the mechanisms of photonics, we can soon enable people with diabetes to measure their blood glucose levels more easily, more cheaply and entirely without pain,” said Berthold Schmidt, CEO of Trumpf Photonic Components. “This partnership once again shows the innovation potential of VCSEL technology." 

According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 540 million adults worldwide live with the metabolic disease diabetes, half of whom have not yet been diagnosed. By 2030, the number of people affected is expected to rise to 643 million and by 2045 to 783 million. Diabetes has caused worldwide at least $966 billion in health care expenditures to date. If the disease is not treated or is treated incorrectly, there is a risk of secondary diseases such as blindness, kidney failure or heart attack, according to the WHO.    

Over the past 10 years, RSP Systems has developed an optical, sensor-based, clinically proven glucose monitor that provides accurate glucose readings just by touching the skin and with no need for calibration. The system is portable, however it is currently the size of a paperback book. 

RSP Systems' current touch glucose monitoring device is currently the size of a paperback book (Image: RSP Systems)

"Touch Glucose Monitoring has been an ambition for device developers over the last three decades due to the vast implications for hundreds of millions of people, needing to keep an eye on their glucose levels,” said Anders Weber, CEO of RSP Systems. "VCSEL lasers are clearing the way for a glucose sensor for your wrist – people with diabetes can thus keep an eye on their glucose levels at all times. Together with Trumpf Photonic Components, we will realise such a wrist-worn device, aimed to cover all uses from people on insulin therapy to people at risk for developing diabetes, literally hundreds of millions of people.”

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