Taking the pain out of blood glucose tests

Bio-Impedance is developing a noninvasive blood glucose test for diabetics that does not draw blood.

Glucose Monitor 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Glucose Monitor 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
“I am the company’s lab rat. They take blood from me every day,” Bio-Impedance General Ltd. CEO Gadi Kan Tor told Globes in describing the company’s noninvasive monitor of blood glucose levels for diabetics.
Bio-Impedance’s product, which resembles a watch, was originally developed to measure blood nitrogen levels for divers, to alert them when it was too high.
When the company demonstrated the product to Kan Tor, he immediately realized its potential for measuring blood glucose levels.
“There are five million divers altogether, but about 550 million diabetics who test their blood glucose levels daily,” he said.
Kan Tor thought that Bio-Impedance’s product would spare him the need to prick himself, and he invested in the company together with his father, Zvi Kan Tor, and Dr. Alexader Barkan.
“The initial technology demonstrated to us didn’t really work,” he said, “but the concept had potential, so we decided to invest.”
As Kan Tor’s involvement in Bio-Impedance increased, so did the number of needles he endured for the sake of science.
“This was my mission – I’m the diabetic here,” he said.
The company’s first prototype was primitive, Shy Hefetz, Bio-Impedance’s scientific manager for the glucose project, told Globes.
“It was a box full of wires that could measure blood glucose levels, but only if the patient was sitting down, didn’t move and barely breathed,” he said. “The system is designed to provide real-time data – data that takes 20 hours to analyze.
We did this just to prove that the core technology can measure blood glucose levels, and we succeeded.”
The system could provide an accurate blood glucose count in real time, Hefetz said, adding, “We’ve conducted scores of tests of the product.”
Kan Tor was the subject of most of them because, as a company employee, it was ethical to test the product on himself.
“Under the Helsinki Conventions, human trials are forbidden,” Hefetz said.
“It is also forbidden to take test subjects off the streets. That’s a pity, because we’re based in Givatayim and surrounded by adult diabetics.”
“For example, when Gadi exercises on the gym bicycle, the system can tell us the gradual changes in his blood glucose levels,” he said. “We conducted other tests on other volunteers from the company, and we now want to conduct our first and controlled large trial at hospitals.”
Bio-Impedance intends to raise $800,000 in the near future to finance the clinical trial.
“The system is suitable for certain patients,” Hanna Riez, Bio-Impedance’s scientific manager for the diving project, told Globes. “It still has to be calibrated to really measure hundreds of thousands of people with different characteristics.
“Today, the system is affected by several factors in addition to blood glucose levels, such as temperature, the diameter of blood vessels and skin thickness. We’ve already succeeded in neutralizing most of the variables, and we believe that we can neutralize all of them.”
Globes: The world is full of companies trying to develop noninvasive systems to measure glucose. Aren’t you deterred by the challenge? Hefetz: “Of course. More than 100 companies have tried before us, but we’ve already passed the point at which most of them closed. Technology has moved forward during this time; processors have been developed that are accurate enough to measure tiny changes in electrical resistance. Diabetes and biological- markers research has also advanced.
Every article gives us another idea on how to bypass the obstacles.”
Kan Tor: “I believe that after we make the breakthrough, we won’t be alone.”
How does your patent work? Hefetz: “The technology measures the electrical resistance of blood vessels. It sends a low-strength electric current through the skin of the arm and measures the reaction of the blood vessels close to the skin. The concept resembles fat measurements in a gym, in which an electric current is sent through the tissue to find out by the resistance what it is made of.”
Kan Tor: “The electrical resistance of blood vessels is affected by blood glucose levels. The objective is for the product to be a kind of band attached to the patient’s arm, and like a watch it will show the blood glucose level every minute or every five minutes.”
Hefetz: “We’ll first target hospitals. This will be a big and heavy product, but effective and noninvasive, and it can replace the protocol of pricking the finger every 20 minutes to obtain a blood sample.”
Bio-Impedance hopes its product will find a market for measuring blood nitrogen levels, especially since there is little competition.
“This could actually be a very nice product, but its development costs are as high as the blood glucose monitor,” Kan Tor said. “In fact, it’s even more complicated because we have to operate in an environment with high and changing external pressure.”
“To develop it, we need a system that would take this an a nonprofit task,” he said. “We wrote to the Israel Navy and US Navy about the product, but they decided not to do anything about it.”