Device uses laser technology to detect glucose levels under the skin, an alternative to painful pricking. (Credit: MIT)

An MIT-developed technology monitors blood glucose levels without needles or a finger prick. Early results show that the noninvasive technology measures blood glucose levels as effectively as a finger prick test — without drawing blood.

The study, “Evaluation of accuracy dependence of Raman spectroscopic models on the ratio of calibration and validation points for non-invasive glucose sensing,” measured the blood glucose levels of 20 healthy, non-diabetic adults prior to drinking a glucose-rich beverage. Blood glucose levels were then measured in intervals over the next 160 minutes using three methods: spectroscopy, IV blood test and finger prick. The tests are designed to determine how much glucose remains in the blood and if a patient’s insulin-regulating mechanisms are working effectively. The researchers found that spectroscopy predicted glucose values as accurately as a finger prick test.

The device uses Raman spectroscopy to measure the chemical composition of skin and extract the amount of glucose out of other skin compartments. A fiberoptic cable attached to a wristband passes laser light onto the skin to detect different components in the skin, such as fat tissue, protein, collagen and glucose molecules. The shifts in wavelengths associated with glucose present in the blood creates a sort of molecular fingerprint that can be used to determine glucose levels.

With more testing, the researchers hope spectroscopy can become an alternative method to test glucose levels in patients in clinical care settings who are not capable of frequent blood draws and, one day, in other settings as the technology becomes smaller and more portable.