Diabetes Breakthrough: Temporary Tattoo Painlessly Detects Glucose Levels

Engineers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a flexible temporary tattoo that can detect glucose levels without painful finger pricks – a promising step in non-evasive glucose testing for people with diabetes.

According to RT, the sensor was invented by Amay Bandodkar, a graduate student in UC’s Nano Engineering Department and Center for Wearable Sensors.

The sensor is made of woven electrodes printed on a rub-on tattoo paper, and works without measuring blood. Instead, it measures glucose in the fluid between skin cells by applying a very mild electrical charge to the skin for 10 minutes. The charge forces the sodium ions, which carry glucose, to flow from between the skin cells toward the tattoo.

The sensor in the tattoo then measures the electrical charge produced by the glucose.

A trial on seven people who do not have diabetes found that the sensor is as accurate as the current blood glucose monitors used by diabetics.

The sensor only lasts about a day, but Bandodkar says that they only cost a few cents each and should not create a financial burden for most patients. The team is working on developing a longer lasting sensor while keeping the cost affordable.

Also, the device does not currently provide the numerical reading diabetics need to monitor their glucose, but the team is working on a readout device.

“The readout instrument will also eventually have Bluetooth capabilities to send this information directly to the patient’s doctor in real-time or store data in the cloud,” Bandodkar said in a press release.

Although the tattoo would be useful in glucose control for Type 1 diabetics – an autoimmune disease not related to diet or lifestyle – the researches see its greatest advantage in the prevention and control of Type 2 diabetes and other “modern lifestyle diseases.”

Scientists are making remarkable strides in the field of diabetes treatment, such as the researchers in this Inquisitr report who cured Type 1 diabetes in mice using stem cell technology. But Bandodkar told CNBC that the insulin spikes caused by carbohydrate-rich diets is still one of the major contributors to Type 2 diabetes and other lifestyle diseases. He believes the information collected about glucose levels in the sensor’s wearers could help scientist understand health trends and to take steps needed to prevent or control those diseases.

According to University of California News, people with diabetes often have to check their blood glucose levels several times a day using a tiny needle to draw a blood sample, and many patients avoid this testing because of the pain, putting themselves at higher risk from complications of the disease. Researchers feel that a less-invasive glucose test will lead to better control and less complications.

Test subjects reported no pain with the tattoo device – a few reported only a mild tingling sensation when the sensors were detecting the glucose levels.

The non-invasive glucose monitor could be useful in treating kidney disease or to athletes tracking physiological changes. The team also noted that this technology could lead to other sensors that monitor different chemicals in the body, or possible alternatives to shots and IVs as ways to administer drugs through the skin.

[Image via University of California]