Researchers used the light-guiding properties of spider silk to create a sensor that can detect and measure tiny changes in the refractive index of a biological solution, such as glucose or other sugar solutions. The new light-based sensor could be useful for measuring blood sugar and other biochemical analytes in the future.
Glucose sensors are essential for diabetics, but these devices are invasive, uncomfortable, and expensive. Spider silk is gaining popularity for its superior optomechanical properties. The researchers wanted to investigate using the biocompatible material to detect different sugar concentrations in real-time, optically.
Based on changes in a solution’s refractive index, the sensor can determine the concentrations of fructose, sucrose, and glucose sugars. Spider silk is ideal for this application because it is strong and elastic and can transmit light like an optical fiber.
The new spider silk-based fiber optic sugar sensor is convenient, small, biocompatible, low-cost, and highly sensitive. It could lead to better at-home medical monitoring devices and point-of-care diagnostic and testing devices with further development.
The researchers are also developing software to enable the sensor to work with mobile devices for point-of-care readings. They also want to expand the sensor’s capabilities to measure different biochemical components in human blood, such as lactose and fat.