No More Pin Pricks: Temporary Stick-On Tattoo Monitors Blood Glucose Levels

If you are a diabetic, then you know all about pricking your fingers throughout the day in order to monitor your blood sugar.

For nearly 390 million diabetics around the world using needles to draw blood is downright annoying and invasive.

Diabetics, doctors, and researchers alike have long been seeking alternative methods to monitoring glucose levels that are less painful than pricking.

University of California, San Diego/2015: Nano-engineers have just invented a temporary stick-on tattoo that could help save lives.University of California, San Diego/2015: Nano-engineers have just invented a temporary stick-on tattoo that could help save lives.

And good news has arrived thanks to the efforts of nano-engineers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), who just invented a temporary stick-on tattoo that could help save lives.

This is a first-of-a-kind wearable device that marks a major step forward in a more user-friendly method of glucose testing for those who live with diabetes.

The stick-on tattoo has a sensor in it which was invented by Amay Bandodkar and his team at the NanoEngineering Department and the Center for Wearable Sensors at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UCSD.  That temporary tattoo, which stays on the skin for about a day or two, both extracts and measures blood glucose levels.

The researchers at UCSD just published a report on their new invention in the journal Analytical Chemistry. According to their published report the tattoo has a series of electrodes printed on it and which is connected to a main sensor. Small electrical currents get to work on their own and within 10 to 15 minutes sodium ions that come from the fluids between skin cells migrate to the tattoo electrodes.

According to the report and a news release issued by UCDS, “These ions carry glucose molecules that are also found in the fluid. A sensor built into the tattoo then measures the strength of the electrical charge produced by the glucose to determine a person’s overall glucose levels.”

Bandodkar states, “The concentration of glucose extracted by the non-invasive tattoo device is almost hundred times lower than the corresponding level in the human blood. Thus we had to develop a highly sensitive glucose sensor that could detect such low levels of glucose with high selectivity.”

The test strips for the new tattoo cost $2.00 (USD), and when mass produced they will sell for only 10 cents. And soon the tattoo will be used with Bluetooth technology.

Bandodkar says that this new breakthrough tattoo could open the door for the Center for Wearable Sensors at UCSD to research and produce other similar devices that will detect and monitor other important medical problems and even deliver new medicine.