Washington State University researchers develop sensor that runs on glucose

There may soon be another option for detecting diseases in the human body besides wearable devices, like watches or a patch.

A research team with Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, has created a biofuel-powered sensor that runs on glucose and can be used to detect, prevent and diagnose diseases.

According to the university, the sensor is enabled by a biofuel cell that uses glucose from body fluids to run. The biofuel cell works with highly-sensitive electronics to process physiological and biochemical signals.

“Many popular sensors for disease detection are either watches, which need to be recharged, or patches that are worn on the skin, which are superficial and can’t be embedded,” a release stated. “The sensor developed by the WSU team could also remove the need to prick a finger for testing of certain diseases, such as diabetes.”

Because the electronics in the sensor only uses few microwatts of power and the biofuel cell relies on body glucose, the sensor can be powered indefinitely, according to WSU Professor Subhanshu Gupta.

“Unlike commonly used lithium-ion batteries, the biofuel cell is also completely non-toxic, making it more promising as an implant for people,” the release stated. “It is also more stable and sensitive than conventional biofuel cells.”

The research team is now working to gain regulatory approval of the sensor so they can conduct further testing.

“This brings together the technology for making a biofuel cell with our sophisticated electronics,” Gupta in a statement. “It’s a very good marriage that could work for many future applications.”