Pacifier biosensor: the future of infant health monitoring?

Written by Alex Hyde, Future Science Group

Researchers based at the University of California San Diego (CA, USA) and the University of Alcalá (Madrid, Spain) have developed a pacifier biosensor. With further development, the device could be used to monitor glucose levels in infants and could mark an important step towards noninvasive saliva biomarker monitoring in the future.

Recent growth in the popularity of wearable biosensors for noninvasive monitoring of physiological parameters have been observed with an increasing number of devices being reported. Earlier work has reported wearable biosensors incorporated into items of clothing or stuck into the skin, for example, ‘Microneedle biosensor could provide real-time measurements of antibiotic concentrations.’ For neonates, the development of portable and nonharmful biosensors is of paramount importance due to their inability to communicate discomfort or health complaints.

The research, published in Analytical chemistry, describes the development of a pacifier capable of continuously monitoring glucose levels. The mouthpiece contains a narrow channel, allowing small amounts of saliva to be transferred through the channel to an electrochemical detection chamber.

In the detection chamber, an enzyme associated with an electrode strip converts glucose into an electrical current, which is detected wirelessly via a smartphone application. The strength of the current correlates with the amount of glucose present in the saliva sample, providing a continuous real-time measurement of glucose concentrations in the saliva.

The proof-of-concept pacifier device was successfully used to detect glucose concentration changes before and after meals in adult patients with Type 1 diabetes.

This research reflects the first wearable sensor focusing on saliva sensing in newborns and could lead to the development of future devices capable of monitoring other biosensors in infants, using saliva as a noninvasive sample.

Sources: García-Carmona L, Martín A, Sempionatto JR et al. Pacifier biosensor: toward noninvasive saliva biomarker monitoring. Anal. Chem. doi:10.1021/acs.analchem.9b03379 (2019)(Epub ahead of print);

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