Temporary Tattoos For Monitoring Blood-Sugar Developed, Eliminating Painful Finger-Pricks – Modified For Other Measurements Too

Patients required to monitor blood sugar can soon apply a temporary tattoo for the job. Engineers working on nanotechnology have developed a noninvasive skin-applicable sticker that will monitor blood-sugar levels in the human body.

Patients suffering from diabetes need to measure and monitor blood sugar levels throughout the day. The practice is critical for keeping their condition in check. The most common technique today is finger-prick method of testing blood sugar. Unfortunately this method deters many patients who find the tests too difficult or unpleasant to perform. Fortunately these patients may soon have a new noninvasive method for blood sugar monitoring that’s as easy as applying a temporary tattoo on the forearm.

Nano-engineers at the University of California, San Diego have nearly perfected a thin, flexible sensor that can be directly printed on temporary tattoo paper and applied to the skin to monitor blood sugar levels.

The tattoo is essentially a mini lab-on-chip. It is a series of judiciously placed electrodes that measure glucose molecules in the fluid of the skin. The tattoo gives off a very mild electrical current, which forces sodium ions in the fluid (in this case, our blood) towards the tattoo’s electrodes. These sodium ions carry glucose molecules with them along the way.

The microscopic sensor built into the tattoo uses this information to measure overall glucose levels in the body. Apart from being painless, patients will surely appreciate that the technique is not only super-easy and noninvasive, but can be manufactured cheaply. Those concerned of skin irritation, need not worry as well as the adhesive used is biodegradable.

The tattoo based technique to monitor sugar levels has already shown immense promise in field trials. Unfortunately though, with the current prototype, the tattoo has to be peeled off, to measure glucose levels. The tattoo, in its current iteration, is placed on a pad that takes the readings and indicates the results.

Engineers working on the technique are hoping that this early design will lead to a model that can display numeric glucose levels right on the tattoo. If that’s not all, parallel design modifications would soon allow the temporary tattoo to ‘speak’ with electronic devices via the power of Bluetooth. Researchers are working on embedding Bluetooth capabilities into the tattoo that would allow it to transmit blood sugar data directly to a patient’s doctor or smartphone.

Apart from blood sugar levels, researchers envision the temporary tattoo could also monitor prescription drug levels, proteins, metabolites, or even illegal drugs or alcohol levels without drawing blood.

[Image Credit | UC San Diego News Center]