Medical AMResearch & EducationWearables

3D printed biosensor shows promise for glucose monitoring

The research project is being undertaken by a team from Washington State University

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Researchers from Washington State University have developed a 3D printed biosensor for monitoring glucose. The innovative research could offer diabetes patients a more accessible and effective means on keeping track of their glucose levels.

Glucose monitoring is a frequent task for people diagnosed with diabetes, and it plays an important part in diabetes treatment. Typically, patients keep track of their blood sugar levels using devices that prick their fingertip. Alternatives, such as continuous glucose monitoring systems, do exist but they can be cost prohibitive.

These limited glucose monitoring methods spurred researchers from WSU to develop a new biosensor-based system which would be both easy for patients to use and cost effective. The research team recently detailed their project in the journal Analytica Chimica Acta.

In developing the wearable biosensor, the team utilized a direct-ink-writing (DIW) process to print tiny, highly complex designs using special inks. More specifically, they utilized an electrically conductive nanoscale material to print flexible electrodes.

WSU glucose monitoring biosensor

Compared to more conventional sensor production methods, such as photolithography or screen printing, DIW enabled higher precision, a more uniform surface and overall fewer defects. This accuracy, the researchers explain, results in a more stable and more sensitive sensor. Tests conducted by the team showed that the 3D printed sensors were even capable of picking up glucose signals better than traditionally manufactured electrodes.

Another benefit offered by the 3D printed biosensor is that it does not require finger pricking—it is capable of monitoring glucose through body fluids such as sweat. “Our 3D printed glucose sensor will be used as 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,” said Yuehe Lin, one of the lead researchers for the project.

Additionally, using DIW to create the sensors enables a higher degree of customization than traditional manufacturing methods, meaning that the devices could be personalized for different patients’ biologies.“3D printing can enable manufacturing of biosensors tailored specifically to individual patients” added Arda Gozen, a faculty member of WSU’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.

That’s not all, though. Because the DIW process results in less waste than photolithography or screen printing, the costs for producing the wearable sensors can actually be lowered, making the technology more accessible.

Presently, the researchers are working on integrating the biosensors into a wearable system for long-term glucose monitoring. There is also the potential to scale up the production of the 3D printed biosensors; medical device manufacturers could potentially use the DIW 3D printer nozzles to print electronics and other components to create the whole wearable device at once, rather than in many separate components.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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