This article appears in Spring Healthy Living 2018.

Scientists have created an adhesive patch to measure glucose levels in diabetics that potentially can put an end to the finger-prick tests that millions of diabetics carry out daily.

Developed by a team from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, the patch does not pierce the skin but instead draws glucose from the fluid between cells across hair follicles. The data is accessed through an array of miniature sensors using a small electric current. Readings can be taken every 10 to 15 minutes over several hours.

Because of the design, the patch does not require calibration with a blood sample, meaning finger pricks are unnecessary.

“A non-invasive — that is, needleless — method to monitor blood sugar has proven a difficult goal to attain,” said Richard Guy, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Bath. “The closest that has been achieved has required either at least a single-point calibration with a classic finger-stick or the implantation of a pre-calibrated sensor via a single needle insertion.

The monitor developed at Bath promises a truly calibration-free approach, an essential contribution in the fight to combat the ever-increasing global incidence of diabetes.”

The hope is that the patch will become a low-cost, wearable sensor that sends regular, clinically relevant glucose measurements to the wearer’s smartphone or smartwatch wirelessly, alerting them when they may need to take action.

More than 100 million U.S. adults live with diabetes or prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s a third of the population. Prediabetes is a condition that if not treated often leads to type 2 diabetes within five years.

Testing on healthy human participants found the patch was able to accurately track glucose levels over 6 hours, Medical News Today reported in April. Researchers hope to extend the monitoring period to 24 hours, as well as enhance the number of sensors in the patch to increase accuracy further.