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  • The science behind the strip

    By Janna Fischer, 3M Storyteller

    Guillermo Urquia, holds his daughter
    The science behind the strip

    Both of Guillermo Urquia’s parents and two of his older siblings have diabetes. “I knew that at some point in my life, I would be diabetic, too,” he says. “But I never thought I was going to be diagnosed in my mid-30s and be the youngest one in my family with this disease.”

    Guillermo’s story is not uncommon. More than 415 million people are living with diabetes in the world, according to the International Diabetes Federation. Only 50 percent are diagnosed. And the numbers continue to grow.

    personal blood glucose monitoring device that provides instant results for diabetes patients

    We’ve come a long way in terms of self-monitoring over the past 30 years.

    “I remember that [my dad] did not have a portable device and had to go to a lab to get his glucose levels before he met with the doctor,” says the husband and father of two.    

    Today, monitoring is much more convenient. Guillermo simply pricks his finger and gets an almost instant result with a test strip and his personal blood glucose monitoring device.

    But how in the world do those tiny little test strips work? It all comes down to a microscopic technology called microfluidics

    3M Hydrophilic Film

    Microfluidics is the science of moving microscopic volumes of fluids through tiny channels in a device. 3M scientists apply microfluidics to create films that consist of special coatings and materials that can be used in test strips to help fluids flow.

    “Our Hydrophilic Film has a micro-textured surface that wicks the blood into the strip’s test chamber,” said David Franta, business manager, 3M Medical Materials & Technologies. “The meter then senses the fluid and starts the measurement process.”

    3M Hydrophilic Film close-up

    Turns out that measurement process is quite complex. David explains that an enzyme in the test chamber reacts with the glucose in the blood sample and changes the oxidation state. That enzyme then reacts with a molecule to transfer the charge, allowing for electro-chemical detection.

    The electrodes in the test strip and the meter then work together to measure an electro-chemical current and report the glucose concentration – letting the patient know if their glucose level is high, low or right on target.

    Guillermo Urquia and his family
    Words of wisdom

    When he was first diagnosed, Guillermo had to test himself up to six times a day until his blood glucose levels normalized. Now, he does it a couple times a week to ensure he’s on track.

    He offers this advice to people who have recently received a diabetes diagnosis: “Do not panic - you are not alone. For sure you will need some time to digest this diagnosis, but it is not the end of your life. This disease is chronic, but you can still live a somewhat ‘normal’ life, and you will be able to adapt to a new way of living sooner than you expect.”