A Breathalyzer for Blood Sugar Levels?

Law enforcement agencies have long been using a breathalyzer device to measure blood-alcohol levels. Recipients of a National Science Foundation grant are now trying to develop breathalyzers that will detect hypoglycemia.

The Dangers of Hypoglycemia

While diabetes is often associated with high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), the bigger threat for many type 1 diabetics is hypoglycemia-- or low blood sugar.

High blood sugar poses a threat to health over time but has to be extremely high (about 500 mg/dl above normal) to be a serious immediate threat. Alternatively, if blood sugar drops just 40 mg/dl below normal levels, the result can be coma or death. Children with type 1 diabetes are most at risk for this dangerous condition.

What a Breathalyzer Promises

A breathalyzer would have sensors that detect odorants present during hypoglycemia. The device would be a low-cost, fuss-free way to keep track of the condition—no finger pricks required.

A grant of over $700,000 was given to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis researchers to develop the technology over the next three years.

Photo: Brookstone