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These Glucose Tests For Diabetics Can Be Printed On Any Old Ink-Jet Printer

Skip the pharmacy: For five cents a pop, this new test could change the lives of diabetics in the developing world.

Treating diabetes isn’t cheap, especially if you live in a developing country where access to high-tech blood glucose monitoring systems isn’t available. In these types of resource-poor settings, researchers need to get creative–and they have. A group of Clemson University bioengineering students has come up with a system called GlucoSense, which consists of a low-cost glucometer and glucose test strips that can be printed on a conventional ink-jet printer. Instead of printing ink, the printer shoots out enzymes.

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Diabetics use about five of these strips a day, and the money adds up; store-bought versions cost $1 each. The GlucoSense strips cost just 5 cents. And since the GlucoSense system is made from off-the-shelf electronic parts that can be purchased in bulk and shipped to remote parts of the planet, it’s a lot more accessible that most glucose-monitoring products on the market.

Other than that, the system should be familiar to any diabetic: Patients prick a finger and place a spot of blood onto the test strip, and then put the strip into the glucometer to get a blood sugar reading.

It all started during a trip to Tanzania, where a group of students from Clemson University were working on a low-cost infant warmer. While in the country, they discovered that there was little access to treatment for diabetes. That simple discovery led to the creation of GlucoSense, which is now part of a new company, called Accessible Diagnostics, that was started by the Clemson students.

For now, the Glucosense system works in tandem with an $80 store-bought printer, but Accessible Diagnostics is thinking about manufacturing its own printer in the long-term. That printer would also cost no more than $80. Kayla Gainey, the company’s chief technology officer and a Type 1 Diabetic herself, doesn’t think that the somewhat high cost of the ink-jet printer will be a deterrent in the developing world. “The cost isn’t a stumbling block because it’s a one-time cost,” she says.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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