Electrochemistry in diabetes management

Acc Chem Res. 2010 Jul 20;43(7):963-73. doi: 10.1021/ar9002015.


Diabetes devastates lives and burdens society. Hypoglycemic (low glucose) episodes cause blackouts, and severe ones are life-threatening. Periods of hyperglycemia (high glucose) cause circulatory disease, stroke, amputations, blindness, kidney failure and nerve degeneration. In this Account, we describe the founding of TheraSense, now a major part of Abbott Diabetes Care, and the development of two products that have improved the lives of people with diabetes. The first, a virtually painless microcoulometer (300 nL volume), the FreeStyle blood glucose monitoring system, was approved by the FDA and became available in 2000. In 2009, this system was used in more than one billion blood assays. The second, the enzyme-wiring based, subcutaneously-implanted FreeStyle Navigator continuous glucose monitoring system, was approved by the FDA and became available in the United States in 2008. The strips of the FreeStyle blood glucose monitoring system comprise a printed parallel plate coulometer, with a 50 microm gap between two facing printed electrodes, a carbon electrode and a Ag/AgCl electrode. The volume of blood between the facing plates is accurately controlled. The glucose is electrooxidized through catalysis by a glucose dehydrogenase (GDH) and an Os(2+/3+) redox mediator, which is reduced by the glucose-reduced enzyme and is electrooxidized on the carbon electrode. Initially the system used pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ)-dependent GDH but now uses flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD)-dependent GDH. Because the facing electrodes are separated by such a small distance, shuttling of electrons by the redox couple could interfere with the coulometric assay. However, the Os(2+/3+) redox mediator is selected to have a substantially negative formal potential, between 0.0 and -0.2 V, versus that of the facing Ag/AgCl electrode. This makes the flow of a shuttling current between the two electrodes virtually impossible because the oxidized Os(3+) complex cannot be appreciably reduced at the more positively poised Ag/AgCl electrode. The FreeStyle Navigator continuous glucose monitoring system uses a subcutaneously implanted miniature plastic sensor connected to a transmitter to measure glycemia amperometrically and sends the information to a PDA-like device every minute. The sensor consists of a narrow (0.6 mm wide) plastic substrate on which carbon-working, Ag/AgCl reference, and carbon counter electrodes are printed in a stacked geometry. The active wired enzyme sensing layer covers only about 0.1 mm(2) of the working electrode and is overlaid by a flux-limiting membrane. It resides at about 5 mm depth in the subcutaneous adipose tissue and monitors glucose concentrations over the range 20-500 mg/dL. Its core component, a miniature, disposable, amperometric glucose sensor, has an electrooxidation catalyst made from a crosslinked adduct of glucose oxidase (GOx) and a GOx wiring redox hydrogel containing a polymer-bound Os(2+/3+) complex. Because of the selectivity of the catalyst for glucose, very little current flows in the absence of glucose. That feature, either alone or in combination with other features of the sensor, facilitates the one-point calibration of the system. The sensor is implanted subcutaneously and replaced by the patient after 5 days use with minimal pain. The wearer does not feel its presence under the skin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / analysis*
  • Carbon / chemistry
  • Diabetes Mellitus / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus / diagnosis
  • Electrochemical Techniques / methods*
  • Electrodes
  • Flavin-Adenine Dinucleotide / chemistry
  • Glucose Dehydrogenases / metabolism
  • Glucose Oxidase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrogel, Polyethylene Glycol Dimethacrylate / chemistry
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Point-of-Care Systems
  • Silver / chemistry


  • Blood Glucose
  • Flavin-Adenine Dinucleotide
  • Hydrogel, Polyethylene Glycol Dimethacrylate
  • Silver
  • Carbon
  • Glucose Dehydrogenases
  • Glucose Oxidase
  • glucose dehydrogenase (pyrroloquinoline-quinone)