Tattoo Tracks Sodium and Glucose Levels on an iPhone

Heather Clark, Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Northeastern University, is leading a research team that has developed nano-sensor injections into the skin (tattoos) and a modified iPhone that helps monitor sodium, glucose, and oxygen level.

How does it work?

The invisible tattoo is made up of nano-particles that will become florescent when exposed to a specified type of molecule (sodium or glucose). The tattoo itself contains 120 nanometer-wide polymer nanodropelets made up of fluorescent dye, specialized sensor molecules (designed to bind specific chemicals, and a charge neutralizing model). The sensor molecules will have an opposite charge to the targeted molecules, therefore attracting the targeted molecule that needs to be detected. Once the sensor molecules pick up the targeted molecules the tattoo will neutralize and result in fluorescent color. The attachment contains a light-filtering lens on the iPhone’s camera to filter out the light emitted by the LEDs.

Then by pressing the attached device to your tattoo, you iPhone will take an image of the light emitted from your tattoo and analyze the data accordingly. In order to see the florescent color, an attachment to an iPhone is needed. In this case the research team produced an attachment that emits light from three LEDs. The sensor molecules attract the targeted molecule since the two molecules will have an opposite charge.

Potential uses and benefits

This method can save doctors and patients the trouble of drawing blood (which is common for diabetes). It also will give results on the spot, so it has the potential to bypass lab work.  Clark hopes to expand this to other molecules, giving doctors a method to monitor drug dosage in real time.  Clark also hopes that this technology will help check respiration and lung function by measuring dissolved gases.

(via Technology Review)