A team led by Prof. Dae Sung Yoon has developed a glucose sensor 

coated with breast cancer cell membrane

Accepted for publication in leading journal Biosensors & Bioelectronics

Expected to reduce risks caused by glucose measurement errors

Contributes to development of functional biomaterials

Joint study with Prof. Jinsung Park to be published in the same journal

A team led by Dae Sung Yoon, a professor of the School of Biomedical Engineering under the College of Health Science, developed a cell membrane filter that enhances the glucose selectivity of sensors using human breast cancer cells, which absorbs excessive amounts of glucose in the body.


The proposed sensor enables diabetes patients to obtain accurate measurements of blood glucose regardless of dietary habits or the intake of health supplements.


▲ (From left) Insu Kim (integrated program, School of Biomedical Engineering), 

Gyudo Lee (research professor), and Dae Sung Yoon (professor)


Diabetes is a metabolic disease characterized by high blood glucose levels over a long period of time. Excessive glucose in the blood can lead to various complications such as cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic renal failure, diabetic ulcers, and diabetic retinopathy. The number of diabetes patients has been steadily increasing due to modern eating habits, psychological stress, and lifestyles. This trend is expected to increase to 642 million, or 10% of the adult population, by 2040 (International Diabetes Federation). The global health expenditure amounts to an annual 673 billion dollars, accounting for 12% of the entire healthcare market.


Diabetes patients must continuously monitor and manage their blood glucose levels. Various glucose measuring instruments have been developed, most of which rely on an electrochemical method* to achieve speed and precision. One commercial method involving enzymes obtains measurements by converting glucose in the blood to electrochemical signals. However, conventional electrochemical glucose sensors may lose accuracy due to similarly structured saccharides (e.g. fructose, xylose, maltose) and materials that induce redox reactions (e.g. cysteine, vitamin C, uric acid). Extensive research is being conducted around the world to overcome this problem.

* Electrochemical method: A method of measuring various phenomena arising from redox reactions caused by the transfer of electrons between materials


To address the issue, the researchers focused on how cancer cells selectively absorb glucose. Cancer cells require more nutrients (glucose) than other cells to proliferate in the body. Glucose transporters* are expressed in higher amounts on the surface of cancer cells to absorb more glucose. These transporters selectively transport glucose from among the many components in the blood. To apply glucose transporters to glucose sensors, the team developed a technology to extract and refine the membrane of a cancer cell, and coated a sensor with the extracted membrane. The thickness of the membrane can be adjusted as necessary. In this study, the membrane coating was fabricated to a thickness of 200 nm. Compared to uncoated sensors, the sensor coated with the cancer cell membrane was more stable and accurate in measuring blood glucose in human blood.

* Glucose transporter: A group of membrane proteins that facilitates the transport of glucose across the plasma membrane. Glucose exists in most cells as it is a source of energy for living organisms, and is highly concentrated in red blood cells and cancer cells.


It is hoped that more accurate and stable glucose sensors developed based on this study will reduce the risks caused by errors in glucose measurement of diabetes patients. In addition, using other cells as coating for sensors expands the possibilities of creating functional biomaterials that outperform existing composite materials.


The research will be published on June 15 in Biosensors & Bioelectronics (IF=8.173, top 4% in the field), a top Elsevier-published journal in the field of electrochemistry and analytical chemistry.


A joint study on an erythrocyte membrane-blanketed biosensor with Professor Jinsung Park of Korea University will also be published in the same journal.


Journal information:

Authors: Insu Kim (integrated program), Dohyung Kwon (undergraduate), Dongtak Lee (integrated program), Gyudo Lee (research professor), Dae Sung Yoon (advisor)

Title: Permselective glucose sensing with GLUT1-rich cancer cell membranes

Journal name/volume/issue: Biosensors and Bioelectronics, Volume 135, Pages 82-87 (2019).



Author information:

Insu Kim: First author, PhD student, Department of Bio-convergence Engineering, Korea University

Gyudo Lee: Co-corresponding author, research professor, Global Health Technology Research Center, Korea University

Dae Sung Yoon: Corresponding author, professor, School of Biomedical Engineering, Korea University

▲ Fig. 1. Schematic illustration of mechanism for enzymatic glucose sensor coated with BCCM


▲ Fig. 2. Measurement of effect of interfering molecules before and after coating with BCCM. Glucose was measured together with interfering molecules. The closer the glucose signal is to 100%, the less significant the effect of interfering molecules.