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Implanted Glucose Sensor Works for Over One Year

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GlySens Incorporated President and CEO Joseph Lucisano (left) and bioengineering professor David Gough (right) are authors on the glucose sensor study in Science Translational Medicine. Lucisano earned his Ph.D. in bioengineering at UC San Diego in 1987.

Hoping to improve the lives of people with diabetes, bioengineers at the Jacobs School and the San Diego company GlySens Inc. have developed an implantable glucose sensor that continuously monitors tissue glucose levels. A wireless telemetry system transmits the information to an external receiver. After clinical trials and FDA approval, the glucose sensor may be useful to people with diabetes as an alternative to finger sticking, and to short-term needle-like glucose sensors that have to be replaced every three to seven days.

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The long-term glucose sensors (pictured) will empower people with diabetes to fine tune the timing and dosing of their insulin injections, which will reduce the risk of taking too much insulin and becoming hypoglycemic, an immediately life threatening condition.

In a recent paper in Science Translational Medicine, the research team -- led by bioengineering professor David Gough and his former student Joseph Lucisano, Ph.D. '87 -- describe successful use of this glucose sensor in pigs for over one year.

"The most important point of this paper is the fact our glucose sensor remains insensitive to tissue encapsulation for over 500 days. That's a big step from a scientific point of view, and it's due to the sensor's unique oxygen detection scheme," said Gough.

The ultimate goal is to limit the dangerous ups and downs of blood glucose, known as "glucose excursions." Prolonged glucose excursions cause the long term problems associated with diabetes.

"Four finger sticks per day to measure glucose levels is the current standard of care, but blood glucose can go on significant excursions between sticks," said Gough. In contrast, the long-term implanted glucose monitor would provide continuous monitoring day and night. "We are moving toward something that will be automatic and quite unobtrusive. Others wouldn't even know if someone is using a glucose sensor. Our goal is to get people off the finger stick cycle," said Gough.

The implanted sensors -- which could be used by people with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes -- send the glucose information they collect to a data recorder the size of a mobile phone.

"There are parents with diabetic children who spend their nights worrying that their child in a nearby bedroom may go into nocturnal hypoglycemia," said Gough. The glucose sensors could send information to a parent's mobile phone if the child's glucose levels drop to a dangerous level during the night.

The work also adds to researchers' understanding of astrocytes - a hot class of brain cells. Mounting evidence suggests that astrocytes in the brain's cortex do more than provide support to neurons.

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