Pain-free glucose test trial

Diabetes research project participants Olivia Larkins (17), Brad England (17) and Brooke Helms ...
Diabetes research project participants Olivia Larkins (17), Brad England (17) and Brooke Helms (18), all of Dunedin, with the glucose monitoring device they will be testing. Photos: Gregor Richardson
Bloody fingers may become a thing of the past for people with diabetes, thanks to researchers at the University of Otago.

Diabetics generally  monitor glucose levels with a finger prick test, which can be painful and embarrassing.

Otago researchers yesterday were awarded a $106,000 research grant to explore a new glucose test using a small sensor attached to the arm.

Ben Wheeler
Ben Wheeler

"We’re hopeful this innovation will help them better manage their condition, see improved glycaemic control, increase glucose monitoring behaviour, and improve their quality of life," Associate Prof Ben Wheeler said.

Dr Wheeler’s study, "Managing Diabetes in a Flash",  launched this week and involves 64 teenagers.

Of those, 32 with type 1 diabetes would manage their blood glucose levels using a flash glucose monitoring system, while the other 32 would use a traditional finger prick test.

"Diabetes carries with it a huge burden of care for those affected, and young people are affected the most by this burden," Dr Wheeler, a paediatric endocrinologist at the Dunedin School of Medicine, said.

He hoped the new technology would "lessen the burden" of diabetes.

Dr Wheeler’s research is understood to be the only trial in the world using technology to track teenagers’ glucose levels.

The research grant has been awarded by Cure Kids, a non-government funder of child health research.

The money will cover the first six months of the trial. The University of Otago will fund a further six-month trial, in which all 64 participants will use the flash system.

"We have been working and preparing for this study for over a year, so we are very excited to see all that work coming together now," Dr Wheeler said.

"The long-term goal for this study is to investigate how well this technology works in the real world, with young people who are struggling with their diabetes management.

"If we could show that this technology helps this population, then we would prove its general usefulness in a real world setting."

Cure Kids has provided $2.2 million towards youth mental health research, and $1.6 million towards research on the prevention of childhood obesity.

Yesterday it announced funding for seven new projects, including  $26,800 to Otago’s Joanne Choi to develop tooth-coloured shell crowns as a non-invasive method to treat dental decay in children.

"We are impressed by the calibre of these projects, and see the seven projects as having the potential to make an impact at both a national and global level," Cure Kids chief executive Frances Benge said.

- Jessica Howard

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