Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Promoting Public Health: New, inexpensive paper-based diabetes test ideal for developing countries

July 9, 2012


New, inexpensive paper-based diabetes
test ideal for developing countries.
Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Summary

With epidemics of Type 2 diabetes looming in
rural India, China and other areas of the world
where poverty limits the availability of health care,
scientists are reporting development of an
inexpensive and easy-to-use urine test ideally
suited for such areas. The report describing
the paper-based device, which also could be
adapted for the diagnosis and monitoring of
other conditions and the environment, appears
in ACS’ journal Analytical Chemistry.

Today’s development is an inexpensive and easy-to-use urine test for Type 2 diabetes ideally suited for rural India, China and other areas of the world where poverty limits the availability of health care. The report describing the paper-based device, which also could be adapted for the diagnosis and monitoring of other conditions and the environment, appears in ACS’ journal Analytical Chemistry.

Jan Lankelma, Ph.D., who is with VU University and is the lead author of the paper, points out that monitoring glucose levels is important.

Although diabetes test strips seem inexpensive, the cost can be prohibitive in areas where people must choose between that and the essentials of life, such as food and shelter. In addition, current handheld diabetes monitoring devices measure glucose levels in blood, which requires a pin-prick to a finger — something that could deter patients from taking the measurements. Here’s Lankelma…

“To address these challenges, we built a new type of glucose monitor — one that detects glucose levels in urine (which is easy to obtain) and is made from inexpensive materials, such as paper.”

The device consists of three electrodes, a buffer solution, a piece of paper (or nitrocellulose) and a plastic dish.

“The sample is injected onto the paper with a slightly modified medical syringe, and the solution moves along the paper by gravity and capillary action. An enzyme called glucose oxidase is already on the paper, and it reacts with glucose in the sample to produce hydrogen peroxide, which is detected by the electrodes.”

The system can be built quickly, is inexpensive and produces results similar to those from a more expensive, commercially available clinical instrument. Lankelma states that the device could be used not only in a clinical lab, but it could also be further developed for applications as diverse as analyzing food quality and environmental monitoring

Smart Chemists/Innovative Thinking

Smart chemists. Innovative thinking. That’s the key to solving global challenges of the 21st Century. Please check out more of our full-length podcasts on wide-ranging issues facing chemistry and science, such as promoting public health, developing new fuels and confronting climate change, at www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges. Today’s podcast was written by Katie Cottingham. I’m Adam Dylewski at the American Chemical Society in Washington.

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Jan Lankelma, Ph.D.,
VU University,
Amsterdam, Netherlands