How a Tattoo Could Soon Help Diabetics

Sticker uses electric current instead of pinprick
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2015 12:42 PM CST
How a Tattoo Could Soon Help Diabetics
A grad student wears the tattoo in this picture via EurekAlert.   (Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego)

(Newser) – For diabetics, monitoring blood sugar frequently involves pricking one's finger up to eight times daily with a needle, Popular Science reports. That could discourage people from carrying out the task. Fortunately, experts are on the case, and one possible solution comes in the form of what's basically a temporary tattoo, LiveScience reports. The device features a small square of temporary tattoo paper with electrodes and a special glucose-detecting enzyme printed onto it. The whole thing sticks to a patient's skin and uses an electrical current rather than a needle to determine blood sugar levels after meals. The current causes sodium ions in the body to move toward the tattoo, carrying glucose with them.

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In a study on seven subjects without diabetes, researchers found that the device worked as well as finger-pricking mechanisms in its task. And no one found the "tattoo" uncomfortable, though a few noticed some tingling in the first seconds of the 10-minute process. "Presently, the tattoo sensor can easily survive for a day, " an engineer says in a press release. The sensors "are extremely inexpensive—a few cents—and hence can be replaced without much financial burden on the patient." Unfortunately, they're not ready for market yet; the team is still working on a way for the device to provide data patients can read themselves. In the future, similar processes could test how effective a patient's medicines are or even tell people their blood alcohol levels, researchers at UC San Diego tell LiveScience. (Google, meanwhile, has been working on a glucose-tracking contact lens.)

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