Diabetes is growing focus of medical device development

It's no surprise that Google is focusing research efforts on diabetes with its glucose eye sensor under development with researchers at the University of Washington.

Diabetes now affects an estimated one of 19 people and is spawning significant research into new methods of treatment. In the past year, about 500 U.S. patents have been issued that list the word diabetes in the abstract. Many are devices that entail use of medical plastics, some in novel ways as shown in the Google contact lens that detects sugar levels through tears. Specific plastics mentioned in the device's patent include polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Artificial pancreas uses multiple plastics.

Roche Diagnostics Operations (Indianapolis, IN) was awarded a patent last year for a handheld diabetes manager with touch screen display.

The device has a housing that contains a blood glucose measuring engine and a printed circuit board. An antenna assembly in the housing comprises a carrier molded from medical plastics, a conductive portion on the molded carrier and a speaker.  The device also shows the trend to increased use of embedded electronics in three-dimensional plastic moldings.

Robert Bosch Healthcare Systems (Palo Alto, CA) was awarded a patent this month for a different approach to diabetes care management that also uses a housing.

Researchers at De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester, England announced this week development of an artificial pancreas device that can be surgically implanted into the body and release a precise amount of insulin into the bloodstream.

Professor Joan Taylor's said that human trials are due to begin in 2016. "This device is cheap and simple to use," added Professor Taylor. "It has the potential to bring an end to the misery of daily injections for diabetics."

The implant contains a reservoir of insulin kept in place by a special gel barrier. When glucose levels in the body rise, the gel liquefies and releases the insulin into the body, working in a manner similar to a normal pancreas.

Parts of the device requiring plastics include membranes, housing, gaskets, tubing, connections, and ports, Dr. Taylor told Plastics Today via email.  Types of plastics used are rigid, flexible, impervious, porous, biocompatible, and differentially permeable.



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