Weavers Turn Silk Into Diabetes Test Strips

Friday, January 9, 2015

It’s a new way to do silk screening, that’s for sure.

Bangalore-based Achira Labs has figured out a way to hand weave diabetes test strips from silk. That sounds pretty luxurious compared to the standard materials of plastic or paper. But silk turns out to have several advantages in a country like India, where weavers who can work a handloom are abundant and the material is readily available and inexpensive.

Many people with diabetes depend on these little strips to monitor their blood sugar levels. They prick a fingertip, dab a blood drop onto a test strip and then feed the strip into a glucose reader. The idea to use silk for medical sensors isn’t new for Achira labs, which has made silk strips that change color when they detect a deadly type of diarrhea in diapers.

The new silk strips for diabetics, which will roll out this year, give the same information as other types of glucose strips but are easier to manufacture. Plastic and paper strips are typically sprayed with enzymes that break down blood sugar into electricity. Then a machine has to embed electrodes in the material, so the electrical signals can be transmitted into the glucose meter. Achira’s silk sensors only require the spray. The coated threads can conduct the electrochemical signals.

Those silk sensors would meet the FDA’s stringent standards for detecting blood sugar, says MIT chemical engineer Patrick Doyle, who serves as an unpaid adviser for Achira.

Source: NPR (link opens in a new window)

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