Drawing blood isn’t particularly pleasant at best for the patient, but interest in mobile and wearable devices to check and measure blood-borne biomarkers may make the process faster, easier, and unobtrusive. People with diabetes, for example, often need to check their blood glucose levels four to eight times a day. A method to make that process easier and quicker would be a blessing, particularly if it can work without the usual “ouch” of even the tiniest needle stick.
In a sign that Google’s newly named parent company Alphabet may be interested in introducing technology or devices to facilitate blood drawing, the U.S. Patent Office recently published Patent Application #20150342509, originally applied for by Google in May 2014. The application is for Needle-Free Blood Draw technology. The patent abstract reveals the system consists of a fixed housing, an accelerator barrel, and a negative pressure barrel and chamber. Pressurized gas within the barrel shoots a microparticle through skin membrane resulting in a tiny amount of blood being drawn back into the negative pressure chamber. When connected to sensors that can detect specific components in the blood and an application to analyze, store, and report on those components, a self-contained system could conceivably be designed for fast, accurate, and hopefully pain-free and mess-free blood testing. The patent application includes drawings of a watch-like device so the implication is that Google’s needle-free blood draw technology might be on the design horizon for future wearable health technology.
When I give blood for annual physicals or other checkups the phlebotomist sometimes mentions that even though they draw what seems like quite a bit in a number of tubes, each test requires only a tiny amount of blood. It will be interesting to see how blood testing evolves in mobile or wearable devices, especially without needles and for consumer use. The day may come when prior to an annual check-in with a healthcare professional, all we have to do is strap on a watch.