San Diego Nanoengineers Create the First Rub-On Tattoo Glucose Sensor

It seems like researchers are always testing devices that will forever eliminate the finger prick, yet the finger prick endures. The latest offering has a new twist: a tattoo.

Published in the journal Analytical Chemistry, Joseph Wang, nanoengineering professor at the University of California at San Diego and Director at the Center of Wearable Sensors and colleagues report on having developed the first rub-on tattoo / glucose level detector.

Their initial device was a wristband that detected glucose levels but patients didn't like it; the irritation to the skin proved worse than pricking their fingers with a conventional device and the team discontinued it.

Enter the rub-on tattoo.

What It Does

Through some clever engineering, Wang's team developed a wearable, non-irritating platform that is able to detect glucose in the patient's fluid just under the skin. They describe it as:

... an easy-to-wear flexible tattoo-based epidermal diagnostic device combining reverse iontophoretic extraction of interstitial glucose and an enzyme-based amperometric biosensor.

The device, which includes two reverse iontophoresis electrodes, was first transferred to the participants' skin. Researchers then applied a small but constant electric current between the electrodes for 10 minutes, which extracted ISF glucose to the skin's surface. An enzymatic electrochemical glucose sensor was then used to measure the glucose. This process took another five minutes.

This concept study featured just seven volunteers, none of whom reported having diabetes.

Nonetheless, the device was found capable of accurately determining glucose levels. How did they know? They correlated the response of the sensor with commercial glucose meters.

Their conclusion is that this is a potentially useful device for diabetes management.

Source: Tattoo-Based Noninvasive Glucose Monitoring: A Proof of Concept Study

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