Samir Mitragotri, 28
Ouch! And ouch again! As many as five times a day, diabetics endure needle sticks, sampling their blood to ensure their blood sugar remains within healthy limits. Samir Mitragotri envisions a day when measuring glucose levels is bloodless--and ouchless.
The Bombay native invented a way to use low-frequency ultrasound to make skin super-permeable (a process known as sonophoresis), then suck out interstitial fluid with a vacuum. This fluid, which bathes the space between cells, also gives a measure of glucose concentration, and Mitragotri co-founded a company, Sontra Medical of Cambridge, Mass., that’s raised $7 million to commercialize the idea. With 16 million diabetics in the United States the need and the market are both considerable.
Sonophoresis can also be used to pump drugs across the skin, but it was only when Mitragotri showed how low-frequency waves make the process 1,000 times more efficient that it became possible to consider transdermal delivery of big protein molecules such as insulin. Combining ultrasound diagnostics and drug delivery, Mitragotri says, could lead to a closed loop, wristwatch-sized device that automatically monitors and adjusts glucose levels. That would make diabetics lives not only pain-free, but carefree as well.