Any diabetic will tell you that checking blood glucose readings is a real pain in the finger. Multiple daily “sticks” with a lancet and forcing a drop of blood onto a test strip connected to a blood glucose meter is to say the least, not appealing. It also can be difficult for some patients to perform and the cost of the test strips can become very expensive.
As a result, some diabetics don’t monitor their blood glucose levels as often as they should. Unfortunately, their diabetes healthcare professionals absolutely rely on this method to make sure blood glucose levels of the patient are within normal range.
For these reasons, scientists have spent years searching for a pain-free way for patients to measure their blood glucose levels. Recently, nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego, developed a temporary tattoo which just may do the trick. The tattoo holds a flexible, highly sensitive glucose sensor which uses a mild electrical current to measure blood glucose levels. The tattoo is painless, as it simply contains electrodes printed on thin, disposable tattoo paper.
The concept of a wearable blood glucose sensor is not new, however. In 2002, a similar device was marketed, called GlucoWatch. But the device was discontinued because it caused skin irritation in some patients, a reaction to the strength of the electrical current. But the UC San Diego sensor avoids this problem by using a lower electrical current to measure the glucose. None of the test subjects reported any discomfort while using the device.
“Presently the tattoo sensor can easily survive for a day,” says Amay Bandodkar, a graduate student researcher at UC San Diego. “These are extremely inexpensive—a few cents—and hence can be replaced without much financial burden on the patient.”
The diabetic tattoo was tested at UC San Diego and measured blood glucose levels in healthy patients as accurately as a blood glucose meter. The tattoo’s development is only a few steps away from providing the numerical values of glucose levels which diabetic patients and healthcare professionals are familiar with. This is a very promising step forward in noninvasive glucose testing for those with diabetes.