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UI researchers win $294,000 grant to develop noninvasive blood sugar measurement device

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa multidisciplinary research team has received a two-year, $294,000 grant to develop novel semiconductor materials for use in a bloodless, light-based system for measuring blood sugar levels. The research, funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), may someday alter the control and treatment of juvenile diabetes.

The principal investigators, all of whom are members of the UI's Optical Science and Technology Center (OSTC), are: Mark A. Arnold, professor of chemistry; Thomas C. Hasenberg and Michael E. Flatté, professors of physics and astronomy; Winston K. Chan, professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Thomas F. Boggess, professor of physics and astronomy and electrical and computer engineering.

Arnold, who has been working on a noninvasive, blood glucose monitoring device for more than 10 years, said that a system that replaces numerous finger sticks and test-strip glucose meters with a harmless beam of light could indirectly improve the health of people with diabetes.

"The idea is to pass a harmless beam of light through the body and then extract information on the glucose concentration from the resulting spectral information. Such a noninvasive glucose monitor would enable painless blood glucose testing, which should increase the frequency of testing for persons with diabetes. More frequent testing will allow greater control of blood sugar levels, thereby reducing the long-term medical complications caused by chronic hyperglycemia," he said.

Arnold noted that the project, which is being conducted within the Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories building, has been limited primarily by the lack of availability of a high-quality detector to measure the exact wavelengths of light containing information on blood glucose levels. He said that the UI's OSTC multidisciplinary research team will develop new detectors dedicated to these specific wavelengths. These detectors will be prepared from novel semiconductor materials.

"Once prepared, the materials will be configured as high-quality photo-receivers and tested as the detector element in our noninvasive blood glucose instrumentation," Arnold said. "This innovative research effort is made possible by the unique combinations of talents and research interests of the OSTC faculty."