Keeping tabs on glucose levels is an activity usually associated with special meters and test strips, but for people with diabetes, scientists at Draper Laboratory have developed a new, novel and non-invasive technique to use semi-permanent tattoos to serve the same purpose.
The prescription ink composed of nano-particles, is injected into the skin, just as is the case with a regular tattoo. The difference is that with medical tattoos a long hollow needle stains the shallow layer of skin, which responds to the intake of glucose into the bloodstream by fluorescing under infrared light. Chemical-sensing agents cause the level of fluorescence to rise as the concentration of glucose increases.
Each tiny sensor, which measures roughly 100 nanometers across, is made up of various chemical-sensing agents within a plasticized, fluorescent polymer bead. The sensor molecule binds to the glucose once injected into the skin and lights up. A hand-held reader determines whether or not an insulin shot is necessary, making painful finger-pricking a thing of the past.
It is believed that this incredible technology, which is still in its infancy, could also be used to track the path of other substances besides glucose, such as potassium, sodium or chloride. This could prove very helpful in detecting the onset of dehydration in soldiers and athletes.
Current testing has been limited to mice but scientist, Heather Clark, believes that it might be possible to develop an EpiPen-like device that would inject nano-sensors on a weekly basis, thereby eliminating the need for a special reader.
For so long, tattoos were considered a sign of being “on the edge” of societal conformation, but now they may well prove to be the polished fruit of highly sophisticated scientific discovery and accomplishment.
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