Google has filed a patent in the United States for a needle-free blood-drawing technology. The patent suggests four potential implementations of the technology, including its use in a handheld or wearable, user friendly device that can draw blood non-invasively.
The patent describes an evacuated negative-pressure barrel with a membrane sealing an aperture at the far end containing an accelerator barrel. Upon activating a trigger, pressurized gas would shoot a micro-particle within the accelerator barrel to subsonic speeds. The micro-particle, consisting of nano-sized gold particles bound with a biodegradable matrix, would pierce the membrane and a user's skin, drawing a drop of blood, which would be sucked up by the negative-pressure barrel.
It has the potential to make a significant impact in serving the diabetic community, which would be advantageous, both for Google, due to the size of the market, and for patients, for its ease of use. Some 347 million people worldwide are affected by diabetes, and the World Health organization predicts it will become the seventh leading cause of death in the world by 2030. Last year, revenues from blood glucose meter sales totaled $440 million worldwide.
Instead of marketing the technology to consumers, Google could offer it to pharmaceutical firms, which could use it in drug trials or for other commercial uses. That might fit in with the wearable health sensor Google X is working on for cardiac and activity tracking. It is a clinical-grade sensor for investigational use rather than the consumer market, and Google will be using it in clinical studies to see whether a continuous stream of medical-grade measurements of biological signals might be useful to physicians and researchers.
To be worn on the wrist, this sensor would continuously measure the wearer's pulse, activity level and skin temperature. It also will be able to take an EKG and sense environmental information such as light and noise levels.