Diabetes patients rely on frequent glucose readings to manage their health, but glucose often doesn't provide an accurate picture. Levels may fluctuate, depending on the person's most recent meal, overall diet, physical activity, even mood. Associate professor Sean Liu, who teaches in the Chemistry Department, is working on an alternative to assess patients' diabetes condition that's simple, reliable and cost-effective.
Instead of glucose, Liu measures the amount of glycated hemoglobin, also known as A1C, which is a more stable indicator of the patient's health. “We know that diabetes doesn't kill patients. The complications do, like kidney failure, heart disease and stroke,” Liu says. “Higher levels of A1C are a sign that a diabetic will have a higher risk of complications.”
However, measuring A1C levels is complicated, time-consuming and expensive. Patients have to visit their doctor's office to have blood drawn and sent to a lab for analysis. Results usually take a few days.
Liu's research focuses on an “affinity” material that binds to A1C and can be measured more easily. So far, preliminary experiments have been successful in determining A1C levels through the affinity material. Through future collaborations with other scientists and engineers, Liu hopes to develop a low-cost portable device that can measure A1C levels quickly.
“Instead of sending blood samples to a lab, where they use fancy equipment that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, the ultimate goal is to be able to take readings in a doctor's office or at home,” he says.
Welcome to the world of health-related research at Cal Poly Pomona, where teacher-scholars guide students through extraordinary hands-on learning experiences. Their to-do list is daunting but exhilarating: disabling harmful bacteria, using stem cells to study side effects of drugs, simplifying the management of diabetes, understanding the causes of epilepsy. One experiment at a time, they add to the knowledge base of the academic community, never overstate their findings and are always excited by the possibilities. This article is part of a series on health-related research at Cal Poly Pomona.