iPhone device can test glucose levels via a "nano tattoo"
Monday 25 July 2011
Diabetics who loathe the daily blood test may have another option. A team of scientists are devising a new iPhone glucose monitor that can test blood glucose levels via a "nano tattoo."
Reported last week in MIT's Technology Review , the technology also has a lot of potential for other applications, such as measuring sodium levels for professional athletes wanting to avoid dehydration or blood oxygen levels for anemics.
Scientists from Northeastern University in Boston are devising the novel technology. To create a nano tattoo, a solution containing polymer nanodroplets of fluorescent dye is injected into the skin, but at shallower layers than tattoo ink and designed to slough off over time, Technology Revie
When exposed to glucose or sodium, for example, the particles fluoresce. Using an iPhone, diabetics can press the phone against their skin and scan the changes in the level of fluorescence, alerting them to the amount of glucose present.
Currently, the iPhone only snaps images of the tattoo, which are subsequently analyzed on a computer. But the team plans to create an app allowing quick analysis right on the phone.
Head researcher and professor Heather Clark told Relaxnews in an email that her team is "excited about the other applications this device could have," such as nano sensor tattoos that could measure nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and potassium levels in the blood.
When can we expect to see the technology being used in the real world? Clark said it is very difficult to even estimate at this point, since the team is not yet to the point of clinical trials, "so it is several years away at best."
Also in the works, researchers from the University of Arizona and Mayo Clinic in the US are developing a new monitor that allows diabetics to draw tear fluid from their eyes, rather than blood from their fingers, to get a glucose-level test sample.
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