Monitoring blood levels with the prick of a finger could be replaced with just a breath in a matter of years, thanks to a ketone monitoring device that will soon be taken from the lab to the clinic for trials.
Working collaboratively with AusMed Global and the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, a team of researchers from the University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital recently unveiled the breath ketone analyser at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council’s International Medical and Healthcare Fair.
Following the fair, industrial partner AusMed Global announced it would be officially moving its operations to Hong Kong Science Park, a precinct of high-technology enterprises that will fast-track the device’s development.
The device is being developed to allow people living with type 1 diabetes to better manage and detect incidences of ketoacidosis, a life-threatening medical emergency that occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin, causing the liver to produce high levels of ketones that damage the surrounding organs.
Leading a multidisciplinary group of health and engineering experts from the University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Faculty of Engineering researcher Professor Xiaoke Yi believes the device will lead to a more accurate detection of ketoacidosis, in turn leading to a more effective management of the disease.
“The breath ketone analyser will be a less invasive and far more accurate way for people with diabetes to monitor their health, by measuring blood ketone levels in the breath,” said Professor Xiaoke Yi from the School of Electrical and Information Engineering.
“The process will be as simple as roadside breath testing – just by measuring the concentration of acetone in a patient’s breath, blood ketone levels can be calculated.
“The device has been calibrated to a high sensitivity and is based on an innovative sensing technique that is not affected by alcohol or other gasses,” she explained.
Professor Stephen Twigg of the University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital said the Hong Kong presentation highlighted the potential value of breath ketone monitoring and that it can become the most common method of monitoring for ketones.
“Monitoring for ketones is important in people with diabetes when they are sick and at risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis, the latter of which requires emergency treatment and can be life threatening,” said Professor Twigg, Kellion Professor in Endocrinology, Stan Clark Chair in Diabetes at the University’s Charles Perkins Centre and Head of Department of Endocrinology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
“Looking at current testing methods - blood testing is invasive and relatively expensive. Getting real time results from urine testing can be problematic. In contrast, this new device uses a person’s breath to measure ketone levels and is not invasive, and promises to be clinically accurate and less financially burdensome.
“Breath ketone monitoring potentially offers a safe, reliable and on-demand way of monitoring ketones in the body using portable technology. In collaboration with AusMed Global, the interdisciplinary University of Sydney team is planning on making this exciting technology an affordable reality for people with diabetes.”
The device will also have the potential to monitor and assist several other diseases such as liver disease, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Attending the International Medical and Healthcare Fair alongside the University team and AusMed Global, the New South Wales Trade and Investment Commissioner for South China and Hong Kong, Murray Davis said the project represents a new model for the innovation sector.
“It shows how an Australian innovation can access Hong Kong capital and management expertise as well as global manufacturing supply chains to bring new products to market and contribute to growth of the New South Wales knowledge economy,” he said.
Christine Yip, CEO of AusMed Global believes the three-tiered collaboration and the recent Hong Kong integration will fast-track the device’s commercial availability.
“AusMed Global is excited to partner with the University of Sydney in bringing this genuine, non-invasive ketone measurement innovation from the laboratory to the market,” she said.
“We look forward to providing a pain free ketone monitoring experience to those suffering from debilitating diseases and life limiting illness in the near future.”
Diabetes in Australia
According to Diabetes Australia, there are over 1.7 million Australians living with diabetes, with approximately 10 percent living with type 1 of the disease.
Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition that results in over seven-thousand hospitalisations each year in Australia. In 2014, the estimated cost of diabetic ketoacidosis in NSW was $8.7million.
The University of Sydney has received funding from AusMed Global Ltd in order to commercialise the ketone breath analyser. The device is the result of a multidisciplinary research project from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering, the University of Sydney Nano Institute and the Charles Perkins Centre.