A gentleman cornered me at the Diabetes Technology Society meeting earlier this month, and said he wanted to talk non-invasive glucose monitoring. How could I resist?
He said his name was Avner Gal, from Israel. He pulled out a chunky little MP3-looking device, and plugged in a cord with a small clamp on the end. Then he hooked the clamp to his earlobe, and pressed a button. We both watched the progress bar move slowly across the screen, and then beeeeep - 104, in very large digits!
Avner does not have diabetes. But he is CEO of a company called Integrity Applications, that's apparently on the fast track to market "the first truly non-invasive glucose monitoring devices for home use," called the GlucoTrack.
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According to the website, GlucoTrack "uses ultrasonic, conductivity and heat capacity technologies to non-invasively measure glucose levels in the blood... The device includes a USB port for downloading data for off-line analysis." It is aimed at both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics, although it's going to have to "jump through hoops" to earn adoption by us insulin-takers. (I'll get to that in a moment.)
The device was approved for commercialization in Europe mid-2010, and the company expects FDA approval in the US about a year later, Avner tells me. I had a load of questions, many of which are addressed on the company's FAQ page, here.
They're also working on a non-invasive continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) model with a wireless ear bud like those used for mobile phones. Now we are talking...
But even on the existing non-continuous model, the key question of course is how accurate is it? That's the deal-breaker, because who's going to switch to something less accurate than what we already have? The bottom line is that right now, Integrity's data show that GlucoTrack is more accurate than other non-invasive technologies, but not as consistently accurate as current fingerstick meters.
"We're working to improve that. Our technology uses three different measurements simultaneously, and then correlates and averages the results for more precise readings," Avner tells me.
"Fine," I reply, "But the big advantage of a device like this is doing away with the need for test strips. That only works if you're accurate enough so people (who take insulin!) don't need to do fingersticks alongside the ear measurements."
Naturally they're feverishly gathering data. Even with improved numbers, they cannot predict whether the FDA would move GlucoTrack out of the "adjunctive therapy" category (a device to be used for extra information only). Grrr.
Nevertheless, for many Type 2s who do not take insulin, and test less frequently, the GlucoTrack could be huge:
- no more need to buy expensive test strips
- zero disposables; the ear clamp plastic needs to be replaced only about once every six months
- super-easy operation and big, clear screen
- calibration required only once a month
- battery charge required only every few days, and the battery lasts for several months at least
- the controller unit stores and graphs data, which can be downloaded (currently in Excel format)
Pricing and insurance reimbursement TBD. Avner gets how important this is, so I'm sure they're aiming for affordable.
Got questions or feedback? You can contact the company here.