Easy to use finger prick glucometers have helped diabetics to manage their disease and continuous glucose monitors that stay on the body for days at a time have made it even easier. Still, these will seem like technology from centuries past compared to the genetically engineered and grafted blood glucose sensor developed at the University of Chicago.
To achieve this, the team used the CRISPR technique to modify skin stem cells so that they incorporate a special gene from E. coli bacteria. This gene produces glucose/galactose-binding protein (GGBP), and as the name implies, it attaches itself to sugar.
In order to actually see how this protein binds to sugar, and therefore use it as a glucometer, the researchers also genetically modified the skin to add genetic code for a pair of fluorescent probes. When GGBP binds to sugar, the change in its configuration affects the local concentration of the fluorescent probes. The change in the fluorescence can be detected and its level can also be correlated to sugar levels measured using traditional glucometry.
Though the research impresses as groundbreaking, and has already been tried on mice, it still requires peer review and much more pre-clinical work before the same can be tried on humans.
Preprint (not yet peer reviewed) article in bioRxiv: Development of an Intrinsic Skin Sensor for Blood Glucose Level with CRISPR-mediated Genome Editing in Epidermal Stem Cells…
Image courtesy of researchers.