Diabetics may not have to prick their fingers with a needle to monitor their glucose levels in the near future. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have discovered a way to test and monitor glucose levels by using a small, stick-on temporary tattoo.
Globally, diabetes is one of the leading causes of death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), close to 29.1 million people in the United States have diabetes. Moreover, 1 out of 4 people do not know they have the disease. This is why the recent scientific advancement and discovery will be a most welcome change for existing and future diabetics.
Currently, diabetics manage this most unfortunate condition by painfully getting blood samples from their fingers. Diabetics use the traditional method of monitoring their glucose levels to prevent problems associated with diabetes by sticking their fingers with a small needle multiple times throughout the day.
Diabetics Welcome This New Discovery
Recently, a University of California, San Diego graduate student named Amay Bandodkar created an electronic device, which has the potential of replacing the traditional methods of monitoring glucose levels in diabetics. This innovative device is made up of an electronic sensor, with interwoven electrodes printed on tattoo paper.
The way it works is quite extraordinary. Diabetics can simply place the temporary tattoo on their arm and the device measures the patient’s glucose levels continuously throughout the day.
Creator Amay Bandodkar provided EurekAlert more information about his new invention.
“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.”
He added, “Presently the tattoo sensor can easily survive for a day. These are extremely inexpensive, a few cents, and hence can be replaced without much financial burden on the patient.”
Bandodkar and a team of nanoengineers at the university developed and tested this amazing device in Professor Joseph Wang’s laboratory at the NanoEngineering Department and the Center for Wearable Sensors at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego. The team was able to provide documented evidence that the electronic sensor will function as intended and work at measuring glucose levels.
Researchers at the university performed an early trial on seven men and women between the ages of 20 and 40. The participants were not diabetics; however, the test results revealed the temporary tattoo was just as accurate as a finger-prick test. Additionally, the volunteers reported they hardly felt anything while wearing the device; they only felt a mild tingling sensation for about 10 seconds.
How The Tattoo Works At Managing Diabetes
The researchers developed the device to apply a very gentle electric current to the skin for about 10 minutes. Sodium ions that carry glucose are located in the fluid between skin cells. Glucose is drawn out and flows to the temporary rub-on tattoo. An electronic sensor in the tattoo measures an electrical charge produced by the glucose.
Professor Wang and the team published their study in the journal of Analytical Chemistry. Bandodkar explained more about the flexible device for diabetics.
“The concentration of glucose extracted by the non-invasive tattoo device is almost hundred times lower than the corresponding level in the human blood. Thus we had to develop a highly sensitive glucose sensor that could detect such low levels of glucose with high selectivity.”
Currently, the tattoo for diabetics does not provide a numerical reading; however, scientists are working on developing a way to provide a numeric readout. They are also working on developing an application that is capable of sending information of diabetics in real time using Bluetooth technology.
According to the researchers, the tattoo could be used to measure other important chemicals such as lactate, a metabolite analyzed in athletes to monitor their fitness. This device may also be used to detect illegal drug or alcohol consumption, or to test how well medication is working.
Costing a few pennies and a less painful alternative for managing diabetes, this discreet and non-invasive device is a most welcome advancement for diabetics.
Featured photo credit: University of California, San Diego via media.gotraffic.net