Shedding Light (Not Blood) on Diabetes Monitoring

Living with diabetes isn’t easy, but a team of biomedical engineering majors is trying to make life a bit more painless for sufferers.  

“A patient with diabetes has to constantly prick their finger to get a drop of blood, and put it on an electrochemical strip to measure their glucose. However, we designed a method to alleviate this,” said Trevor Schmitt, biomedical engineering major and project leader for Stellaris – a non-invasive glucose meter.

Shining Light on Diabetes

By shining light through the earlobe, known as near infrared (NIR) technique, the different wavelengths interact with the blood constituents which absorb, refract or transmit the light. Based on these interactions, Stellaris is able to make glucose calculations.

“This allows a safer, faster and less painful way of getting a patient’s glucose,” Schmitt said.

Of all the possible sources of inspiration for a new glucose meter technique, it was a cat that kicked off the project idea.

“As a certified veterinary technician, I can tell you by experience that an angry diabetic cat is not easy to get blood from!”

Schmitt’s experience gave him the idea that there has to be a quick and simple method to measure glucose, something that even a client at home could use.

“This easily translates into human medicine, where a large market is available and can further the development of this device.”

Biomedical Engineering Majors Team Up

One of the team’s biggest challenges developing the meter was to figure out how to find sugar content from light. Together with Lead Designer Kevin Aiosa, electrical engineering ’17; Assistant Lead Fernanda Charbonneau, biomedical engineering ’17; and External Relations Coordinator, Brandon Boucher, biomedical engineering ’17, they worked on the problem.

“If I didn’t have a novel solution for the problem, one of the team members did so there was constant support between all of us.”

After graduation, the team plants to continue to work on their device and build out a business plan.

The judges at the 2017 Northrop Engineering & Science Student Design Showcase found the idea so novel that they award the team the Northrop Award for the College of Engineering.

“I was sitting across from Fernanda, our Assistant Lead, and we looked to each other dumbfounded when we heard our name. But I’m proud. I’m proud of our work, and I’m incredibly proud of my team.”


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