UT Biomedical Optics Lab awarded Ohio Third Frontier grant for diabetes monitoring technology

July 6, 2012 | Research, UToday
By Anne Izzi

The potential to more easily diagnose illnesses and chronic medical conditions such as diabetes has been a hot area for researchers. Current methods are expensive, slow and not accurate enough to provide the best possible care to patients.

Dr. Brent Cameron, left, and Dr. Dong-Shik Kim evaluated results related to the generation of DNA biomolecular recognition components for use in their diagnostic sensor to provide guidance to diabetics.

But two UT researchers are looking to change that, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation Fund recently awarded to UT’s Biomedical Optics Lab. The goal of the fund is to create greater economic growth in Ohio-based startup companies to commercialize technologies developed by institutions of higher education in the state.

When the grant funds are matched by the UT Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, Dr. Brent Cameron, associate professor of bioengineering, and Dr. Dong-Shik Kim, associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering, will have $100,000 to continue their research in the area of biomarkers, which indicate the level of certain molecules in the body and can be measured to indicate the progression of a disease or condition such as diabetes.

“This technology provides a less expensive but much more detailed way to look at a patient’s blood sugar history over recent days, weeks or even months, which will provide physicians with the information they need to diagnose conditions like diabetes earlier and give more accurate and specific therapy guidelines to help keep blood sugar levels under control for those already diagnosed,” Cameron said.

Cameron, director of UT’s Biomedical Optics Lab, has been working for years in the field of optics and plasmonic sensing to develop biomarker-sensing technologies. Some of these technologies will be useful to help physicians know how well a diabetic patient is following instructions about how and what to eat in order to keep blood sugar levels within acceptable limits.

“Anything we can do to bring these life-changing technologies to Ohio startup companies will have a direct impact on job creation, and further positions Ohio as a leader in innovative technology,” said Christine Schmenk, director of the Ohio Department of Development and chair of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission.

The technology for which UT has filed two patent applications describes methods for the ultra-sensitive and selective detection of an almost unlimited number of biomarkers for many different conditions beyond diabetes. Such measurements can provide significant information to physicians, allowing them to provide more effective individualized therapies specific to each patient.

The technology also can be adapted to create a low-cost handheld device for use in a physician office or home environment. Together, these two technologies will allow fast and easy assessment of patients’ long-term glucose regulation compliance, Cameron said.

The modified sensors can be fabricated for less than $1, making testing available to a greater number of people while eliminating the expense for patients associated with lab analyses.

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