Lifewatch: Diabetics

WILMINGTON -- It's painful, invasive, and time-consuming, yet everyday millions of diabetics draw blood to check their blood sugar levels.

But now, there may be a way to prevent that pain.

Robbie Mansfield, 14 years old, tests his blood sugar seven times a day, or 2,550 times a year.

Doctor Pietro Galassetti thinks he may have found a painless way to collect the levels.

Galassetti collected breath samples from diabetic children while blood sugar levels were high and again as levels fill in response to insulin.

Using a technique developed to test air pollution, chemists detected high concentrations of methyl nitrate, which is a by-product of the damage to body tissue when blood sugar levels are too high.

While there is more research to be done, Galasetti sees a hand-held breath analyzer replacing the blood test.

If it's easy, children are more likely to do it.  Controlling glucose levels now lowers Robbie's chance of complications down the road, and increases his shot at the big leagues.

Breath analysis has already shown promise in diagnosing ulcers and cystic fibrosis.

Dr. Galasetti said eventually we may be able to monitor insulin and cholesterol with a breath test.

Reported by Kristy Ondo