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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A European company is pioneering a bloodless way for people with diabetes to monitor their glucose levels.

Why it matters: More than 5% of the global population is affected by diabetes, and the number is set to keep rising. A more seamless monitoring system would make it easier for people with diabetes to manage their conditions and avoid disastrous health outcomes.

How it works: DiaMonTech is developing machines that use lasers and an optical lens to read glucose levels through the skin photothermally.

  • A user places his finger on the lens for a few seconds, and "wavelengths from the infrared laser are selectively absorbed by the glucose molecules in skin and we detect the small amount of heat that is caused by the absorption," says Thorsten Lubinski, DiaMonTech's CEO.
  • A proprietary algorithm is able to convert those readings into glucose levels.

Background: People with diabetes suffer from problems managing blood sugar levels that stem from their inability or inefficiency of their bodies to produce the glucose-regulating hormone insulin.

  • To combat the disease, they need to frequently monitor their glucose levels to indicate when they have to take insulin or increase their sugar levels.
  • The conventional method involves pricking a finger, sometimes several times a day, to produce blood that can be tested.
  • More advanced continuous monitoring systems reduce or virtually eliminate the need for finger pricking but still require an injected sensor.

What to watch: DiaMonTech has developed a lab-based version of its system that has been certified for medical use in clinics in Europe, and is working on a hand-held device for personal use that Lubinski believes could be ready by 2022.

  • Researchers are also working on a fully functional "artificial pancreas" that could seamlessly monitor glucose levels and dispense insulin as needed, but such devices are still likely years away.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
7 mins ago - Economy & Business

2021: The year of surprise shortages

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

American consumers and businesses face any array of shocking shortages in 2021 — the result of corporate miscalculations in the early days of the pandemic. The shortages range from labor to lumber to rental cars.

Why it matters: As vaccinations rise and the economy grows back to its pre-pandemic size, Americans are tantalized by the prospect of the country reverting to something approaching the familiar old normal. While that might happen eventually, it could take a surprisingly long time for a new equilibrium to establish itself.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
36 mins ago - Health

Why waiving vaccine patents might be a bad idea

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It will take more than waiving patent protections for coronavirus vaccines — which the Biden administration now says it supports — to fix the gaping global divide in access.

Why it matters: Waiving drug companies' intellectual property rights risks setting a bad precedent for future investment in new drugs. And that risk may not be worth it without additional steps to meaningfully increase the availability of shots across the world.

Coronavirus cases hit a seven-month low

Expand chart
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Coronavirus infections in the U.S. are now at their lowest levels in seven months, thanks to the vaccines.

The big picture: The vaccines are turning the tide in America's battle with the coronavirus. Deaths and serious illnesses have dropped significantly, and now cases are falling too — an important piece of protection for the future, if we can keep it up.