Photoacoustic spectroscopy can measure blood sugar noninvasively

A team of researchers from the Biophysics Institute at the University of Frankfurt in Germany has devised a novel, noninvasive spectroscopy-based approach to make blood glucose monitoring in diabetes easier. Using infrared (IR) laser light applied on top of the skin, they can measure sugar levels in the fluid in and under skin cells to read blood sugar levels.

Related: Noninvasive blood glucose measurement clears hurdle

The work could lead to a cheaper means for patients to measure their blood glucose levels without pricking and test strips, explains lead researcher Werner Mäntele, Ph.D. The optical approach uses photoacoustic spectroscopy (PAS) to measure glucose by its mid-IR absorption of light. A painless pulse of laser light applied externally to the skin is absorbed by glucose molecules and creates a measurable sound signature that enables researchers to detect glucose in skin fluids in seconds.

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The data showing the skin cell glucose levels at one-hundredth of a millimeter beneath the skin is related to blood glucose levels, Mäntele says, but previous attempts to use PAS in this manner have been hampered by distortion related to changes of air pressure, temperature, and humidity caused by the contact with living skin.

To overcome these constraints, the team devised a design innovation of an open, windowless cell architecture. While it is still experimental and would have to be tested and approved by regulatory agencies before becoming commercially available, the team continues to refine it.

In a close collaboration with an industry partner (Elte Sensoric; Gelnhausen, Germany), they expect to have a small shoebox-sized device ready in three years, followed by a portable glucometer some years later.

Full details of the work appear in the Review of Scientific Instruments; for more information, please visit


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