KENNESAW, Georgia | September 21, 2022
As a child, Maria Valero saw her diabetic father prick his finger several times a day to draw blood and check his blood sugar level with an electronic monitor. She was concerned about the invasive and painful process, but also curious about the technology behind the device.
“After seeing my father go through it, I wanted to create something less invasive,” Valero said.
The assistant professor of information technology at Kennesaw State College of Computing and Software Engineering (CCSE) and director of KSU’s IoT as a Service Research Group works to improve the glucose monitoring process for millions of people around the world affected by diabetes.
Valero and her team used college funding and a lot of trial and error to develop a noninvasive process that can determine the exact blood glucose level with 90% accuracy, without taking a blood sample. The GlucoCheck procedure uses light shining through human tissue, either in the ear or finger, and a small camera to take pictures of the other side. Valero’s team then uses a model to study the amount of light absorption in these images to determine blood sugar levels.
“Our pilot study was very successful,” she said. “We’re excited to see how this device will help people with diabetes, which affects approximately one in 10 people in the United States.”
Valero and her team recently filed a provisional patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office to protect the process they developed. Director of the Kennesaw State Office of Intellectual Property Development, Chris Cornelison, helped Valero screen research projects around the world to ensure the GlucoCheck process was unique and patentable.
“The way we collect and output the data is novel, and we will continue to work to improve the glucose estimation model,” Valero said. The team has tested the procedure on nearly 50 people so far, but before filing for a full patent next summer, they will assess how the procedure works in people with a range of skin pigmentations and skin thicknesses.
Valero’s students have already created a mobile phone application and are working to connect GlucoCheck to Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa.
“I am very fortunate to have amazing students who are extremely motivated and bring a wealth of knowledge to this project,” said Valero. “It’s very rewarding to see them grow as researchers who want to use technology to make a difference in the world.”
According to Paola Spoletini, Deputy Interim Dean of the CCSE, Valero’s commitment to her research is reinforced by her commitment to her students.
“DR. Valero is passionate about using technology to change the world and she is an incredible asset to our college,” said Spoletini. “Not only does she develop cutting-edge technologies, but she also serves as a mentor and role model for her students .”
In addition to her students, Valero has worked closely with Hossain Shahriar, associate professor of information technology, and Katherine Ingram, associate professor of exercise science. Ingram is currently researching the risk of gestational diabetes and Shahriar’s research focuses on health information technology, data analytics and cybersecurity. Her article detailing the pilot study was recently included in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, and Valero used the data to request additional funding.
– O’Brien Barrows Abbey
Photos by Judy Pishnery
Kennesaw State University is a leader in innovative teaching and learning, offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two campuses in the Atlanta metropolitan area, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global connections, and entrepreneurial spirit attract students from across the country and around the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated graduate (R2) research institution, placing it in an elite group of just 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with R1 or R2 status. Visit kennesaw.edu for more information.