Nanoparticle Tattoo Monitors Blood Glucose

A nanoparticle-based tattoo that can monitor glucose levels in the blood of diabetes patients is under development by researchers at MIT. If it works, millions of people who endure small needle sticks several times every day may get some relief.


(Tattoo to monitor blood glucose)

From the MIT press release:

The sensor is based on carbon nanotubes wrapped in a polymer that is sensitive to glucose concentrations. When this sensor encounters glucose, the nanotubes fluoresce, which can be detected by shining near-infrared light on them. Measuring the amount of fluorescence reveals the concentration of glucose.

The researchers plan to create an “ink” of these nanoparticles suspended in a saline solution that could be injected under the skin like a tattoo. The “tattoo” would last for a specified length of time, probably six months, before needing to be refreshed.

To get glucose readings, the patient would wear a monitor that shines near-infrared light on the tattoo and detects the resulting fluorescence. One advantage of this type of sensor is that, unlike some fluorescent molecules, carbon nanotubes aren’t destroyed by light exposure. “You can shine the light as long as you want, and the intensity won’t change,” says Barone. Because of this, the sensor can give continuous readings.

Active tattoos can be found in various sf works; consider the subdermal microchannels from the 1985 cyberpunk classic Stone Lives by Paul Di Filippo:

June's body is a tracery of lambent lines, like some arcane capillary circuitry in the core of Mao/K'ung Fu-Tzu. Following the current craze, she has had a subdermal pattern of micro-channels implanted. The channels are filled with synthetic luciferase, the biochemical responsible for the glow of fireflies.
(Read more about Di Filippo's Subdermal Microchannels)

A similar system is being tried in the UK with fluorescent polymer microbeads; see Diabetes Tattoo Tests For Glucose Levels .

From MIT via MedGadget.

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