Diabetes is a serious issue for millions every day around the world yet there is hope gaining in traditional, alternative and critical monitoring.
For many people suffering from chronic diseases, days require time-consuming health monitoring which can be expensive and needed multiple times each day. For diabetics, piercing the skin 3 to 10 times a day to monitor glucose levels is an unappealing but unavoidable routine. Researchers at MIT and Harvard Medical School are exploring an innovative approach to alter the way people with diabetes monitor their blood sugar permanently — a biosensor tattoo.
The research is part of the DermalAbyss project. The tattoo ink is a new approach to health monitoring in which biosensor ink changes color when fluid levels rise or decrease. The new ink is capable of sensing blood sugar levels, pH, and sodium. The ink is still a “proof of concept,” which means that it’s in a pilot stage to prove that it works, but is not ready to be used in a clinical trial or sold as a product.
How it Works:
The ink reacts and changes color based on chemical and fluid levels in the body, allowing the user to monitor color changes and the need for medicine, such as insulin. For example, a person with diabetes could monitor color changes from pink to purple based on the glucose levels in their body. For an individual monitoring sodium levels, the ink will become more vibrant. For individuals monitoring these fluids, the tattoo becomes interactive to alert them to changes.
The biosensor ink is not ready for the healthcare consumer market, but it represents the possibility of simplified health monitoring. For individuals battling chronic disease, having to use monitoring equipment can be difficult during activities like running or swimming. Even during day-to-day tasks, it’s easy to lose track of time and forget to check blood sugar levels. The option to look down at a tattoo to check blood sugar is a simplified approach to health monitoring, which could lead to improved tracking and management of a specific disease state like diabetes. There are still a lot of unknowns, like allergies and durability, but people with these diseases need to know what’s going on in their bodies and this research is a step toward simplifying the burden.
Diabetes Care and Prevention:
The future of biosensor tattoos is emerging and unknown, but new prevention and management programs are available to individuals.
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Alternative prevention, treatment and research: Controlled clinical trials with cannabinoid-based medicines in diabetic patients:
The best way to prove that a medicine works is to test it in controlled clinical trials in the relevant patient population and to date, this has been investigation for cannabinoid-based medicines in diabetes in two areas: CB1 receptor blockade (Rimonabant/Accomplia) for weight loss and diabetes, and diabetic pain (neuropathy) reduction by ∆9-terahydrocannabinol (THC, in the form Nabilone/Cesamet), THC smoking, or Sativex (a THC:CBD combination drug licensed in Multiple Sclerosis).
The CB1 receptor is one the main cell membrane protein targets of the plant derived chemical ∆9-terahydrocannabinol (THC) and of the compounds that we make in our body called endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids were only discovered in the early 1990s and since then we have learnt that the endocannabinoid system is an important set of chemical messengers, enzymes and receptors that control many bodily functions.
One other study has investigated cannabinoid-based medicine in diabetes, published in 2016, which investigated tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and CBD alone or in combination. This small, double blinded, randomised controlled trial showed that THCV alone (5 mg twice daily) decreases blood glucose levels, but CBD (100 mg twice daily) had no effect on various markers of diabetes. THCV is an interesting compound because it has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce eating and cause weight loss in animal studies, suggesting further work should be carried out with this compound in diabetic patients.