22-year-old Tyra Kozlow from the University of Huddersfield has defeated thousands of entries from around the world to become one of the finalists of the 2020 Global Grad Show with her design for a discreet earring that monitors blood sugar levels and delivers feedback in real-time.
The Sense Glucose Earring is a non-invasive blood glucose monitor that could revolutionise how patients manage type 1 diabetes.
The diabetes-monitoring earring requires a single lobe piercing which incorporates safe high-frequency radio-waves that penetrate through the lobe and provides data on the characteristics of the blood. Unlike some of the other glucose monitors on the market, Tyra’s design does not require constant blood samples and it uses rechargeable batteries, thus reducing the amount of medical and plastic waste produced.
Once the blood has been monitored, Sense connects with an app to alert the user about their current levels of blood sugar and sends them notifications. The app can share data, analyse trends and generally helps the user to manage their condition.
Teenagers with diabetes
The inspiration to design a piece of wearable technology for diabetics to be able to control their condition discreetly came after Tyra chaired a focus group with a group of parents whose children had the condition.
The group told Tyra of the stigma their children experienced and how because they felt ashamed, they would often avoid diabetes management with friends present and had difficulty telling their peers about their diagnosis.
Ideal diabetes management is based on finding the perfect balance of medication to keep a patient’s blood sugar in the perfect range: if their blood sugar is too high, there are significant risks of vascular complications, such as vision problems and kidney disease; if their blood sugar is too low, it can lead to morbid outcomes, including fainting, seizures, or even death.
“Even though type 1 diabetes is not the fault of the person affected by it and is not related to any behaviour patterns or choices,” explained Tyra, “young people diagnosed with the condition do experience a distressing level of stigma and can be twice as likely to have poor glycaemic control which can lead to further health problems.”
Tyra is confident that the Sense Glucose Earring will have a positive impact on a younger generation of type 1 diabetics. “I hope Sense will help teenagers feel more in control of their diabetes and that they will feel more encouraged to manage their condition around their friends because it’s a piece of Smart technology they will be using,” she said. “By making the monitoring process as easy as say, measuring your heart rate on a Smart watch, I hope this will lessen the stigma, so it becomes much more a part of everyday life,” she added.