WSU researchers create 3D printed glucose biosensors for diabetes monitoring

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Dec 6, 2018 | By Cameron

A breakthrough out of Washington State University will enable wearable glucose monitoring systems thanks to 3D printed glucose electrochemical biosensor that’s flexible. For the millions of people suffering from diabetes, the painful finger pricks of constant glucose testing are yet another inconvenience. There are continuous glucose monitoring devices available but they are quite expensive and require that a sensor be embedded into the skin that’s held in place by an adhesive.

Biosensors that can accurately measure glucose levels in sweat as it’s excreted by the skin already exist, so the invasiveness and discomfort of finger pricks and embedded sensors are becoming less necessary. Getting those biosensors into a flexible format has been mostly limited to screen printing, a rather toxic and material-hungry process. By using a direct ink writing (DIW) 3D printer, the WSU research team produced a nanoscale material that is electrically conductive and flexible. The precise method uses significantly less material and results in biosensors that are more sensitive than traditional electrodes partly due to improved surface morphology.

Arda Gozen and Yuehe Lin, faculty in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, led the project. Gozen believes that the technology can lead to more accessible, customized solutions for diabetics, saying, “3D printing can enable manufacturing of biosensors tailored specifically to individual patients. This can potentially bring down the cost.”

Lin is hopeful that the younger generation can avoid the sting of outdated medicine, commenting, “Our 3D printed glucose sensor will be used as a wearable sensor for replacing painful finger pricking.  Since this is a noninvasive, needleless technique for glucose monitoring, it will be easier for children’s glucose monitoring.”

They’re now working to integrate the biosensor into a packaged, wearable device for long-term glucose monitoring. The design could be as simple as a strap around the wrist that wirelessly connects to a smartphone for indicating and tracking glucose levels. 3D printing offers a high degree of customization and can generate patches of biosensing fabric in any shape. Eventually, as the technology to integrate power sources into flexible materials is further developed, biosensors will be inside clothing, measuring much more than just glucose. Activity trackers and health monitoring systems will all come together in a smart T-shirt that can be worn while working out as well as on sick days to generate diagnostics at regular intervals, automatically uploaded to the doctor’s office. Such is the 3D printed future.

Posted in 3D Printing Application

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