A SIMPLE new monitoring method could be used as the latest weapon in the fight to halt Britain’s spiralling diabetes crisis.
Scientists believe revolutionary smartphone technology, which can painlessly measure blood glucose levels without puncturing the skin, could transform the lives of millions of diabetics and prevent others from developing the deadly condition.
More than four million people in the UK live with diabetes and it is believed a further 12 million are at risk of developing the illness that can lead to blindness, amputation, heart disease and stroke.
The Epic Health app, which is set to undergo clinical trials in the UK in the coming months, replaces the need for diabetics to prick their fingers several times a day which patients complain is inconvenient and uncomfortable.
The app, which is suitable for both Type 1 and 2 diabetics, works by placing a fingertip over the camera lens of a smartphone and capturing a series of close-up images that convey information about the user’s heart rate, temperature and blood pressure to respiration rate and blood oxygen saturation.
Similar innovations have been developed using laser technology and sensor pads to avoid using needles but most need an accompanying gadget to interpret the results.
But the makers claim that the real breakthrough of the Epic app is its ability to measure insulin resistance levels – a key way of determining whether someone is pre-diabetic. It does this by measuring the variation in the patient’s pulse which is related to blood glucose concentration.
Experts say this would allow someone to alter their lifestyle to avoid developing full-blown Type 2 diabetes.
The app’s founder Dominic Wood said: “The app uses a simple protocol which prompts the user to take a noninvasive test and this allows us to capture the vital information in a systematic way which produces the most consistent results.”
He added: “This is a massive driver of prevention, as the first of our glucose products is targeting everyone yet to be diagnosed with or in the general risk of diabetes when it’s still preventable.”
Dan Howarth of Diabetes UK, said the development of new technologies could end up transforming the lives of diabetics.
He said: “The prospect of a non-invasive app that monitors blood glucose levels without a drop of blood and without even an accompanying piece of technology is an exciting one.
“Monitoring blood glucose can be an extra burden and source of discomfort for many people with diabetes, so easy-to-use innovative tools can make a huge difference.”
He added: “We will watch with interest to see the results of the clinical trials on the effectiveness, precision and consistency of this proposed new method.”
Clinical trials of the Epic app are due to begin in the coming months at four centres in the UK.
The app, which has been in development for three years, will be available to download, free of charge, by the end of the year.