60-Second Science

Glucose Test Swaps Tears for Blood

Tears have much lower glucose levels than blood but, as the ratio is consistent, they could serve for diabetes glucose monitoring. Sophie Bushwick reports

People with diabetes may have to endure multiple, painful finger sticks every day to get blood samples for testing. But a new glucose test may do away with the pain even as it brings on the tears. Because the test uses tears instead of blood to measure glucose levels. The report is in the journal Analytical Chemistry. [Qinyi Yan et al., "Measurement of Tear Glucose Levels with Amperometric Glucose Biosensor/Capillary Tube Configuration"]

Researchers at the University of Michigan studied glucose in rabbits. They found that glucose levels are much lower in tears than in blood, but the difference is consistent. They thus aim to develop a sensitive enough system to detect sugar levels in tears.

But why are researchers going to all this trouble just so people with diabetes can avoid a pinprick?

In order to best control their glucose levels and prevent complications like kidney failure or limb amputation, some diabetics should be testing their blood multiple times a day. But the pain of jabbing a finger with a needle over and over keeps some patients from the frequent testing they need. With a pain-free test, that deterrent would vanish, making blood sugar tests a lot sweeter.

—Sophie Bushwick

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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