A Less-invasive Method to Measure Levels of Glucose and Lactate in Newborns

The research team at the University of Strathclyde is conducting a clinical trial on a system that may avoid the use of invasive blood tests in the newborns.

It is critical maintaining the normal levels of electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, lactate, and glucose in babies who are sick or premature. The current procedures to check levels of glucose and lactate in such babies are quite invasive.

These methods like drawing blood from the vein or using heel stick blood tests can increase the risk of blood depletion in vulnerable babies who are already admitted to intensive care units (ICUs). If successful, this new system will allow healthcare professionals to analyze the blood levels of glucose and lactate through the skin in such sick and premature babies.

Through this clinical trial, the research team will check the effectiveness of the new skin test in the accurate detection of lactate and glucose levels. If successful, this clinical trial will allow the use of this new non-invasive system in the medical devices in the future.

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The medical devices having this system in the form of a wireless patch sensor may detect glucose and lactate levels in any sick baby, preventing the need for invasive methods.

According to Patricia Connolly – a Professor at Strathclyde, the current methods to examine blood chemistry of the babies involve drawing out blood from the veins or a heel prick capillary and need to be carried out on a daily basis.

She added that the purpose of the novel technology presented by the research team is to avoid the need for these invasive tests on a regular basis, as most of the ions and molecules also appear on the skin.

Using this new skin patch test will allow the collection of glucose and lactate without drawing out any blood.  The levels of electrolytes found in the skin can be further compared with the levels in blood samples that are still regularly collected by the medical staff.

This research can further facilitate in revealing that the electrolyte levels found through the skin can be calibrated against that of the blood.

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In the case of wearable devices, the sensor will help in monitoring the level of the electrolytes of the babies by extracting them across the skin, analyzing their levels, and then transferring the results to a mobile phone device via Bluetooth technology.

The skin patches used in these wearable devices are designed in such a way that they can be positioned on the newborn’s stomach and allow professionals to get a real-time reading within 30 seconds.

Taking blood samples on a daily basis or more frequently can not only cause short-term effects like pain and discomfort but can also place babies at risk, leading to neurodevelopment problems.

Using this new approach can prevent the development of such issues. According to Strathclyde’s research team, the manufacturing of the finished product for sick and premature babies wouldn’t be that expensive. And in the future, the success of this clinical trial will pave a way for the development of such non-invasive devices for adults.