A painful prick of the fingertip reveals a mountain of medical information for many diabetes patients. But health professionals have long struggled to find a reliable and painless way to gather blood sugar measurements. Just last year, Google announced that it was developing contact lenses that measure glucose levels in its user’s tears. But now, nanoengineers may have found an even easier way for diabetes patients to monitor their vital levels: temporary tattoos.
Amay Bandodkar, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego, has created a flexible sensor that uses a mild electrical current to measure glucose levels in a person’s body. Measuring blood sugar levels multiple times a day is vital for diabetes patients because it shows how well their body is managing their disease as well as the dose of insulin they require, if they need any at all. But because many people find needles unpleasant, they tend to avoid measuring their levels, which puts them at risk of developing serious medical complications. The new device is painless—It contains electrodes printed on a thin tattoo paper that patients can even dispose after use. “Presently the tattoo sensor can easily survive for a day,” Bandodkar said in a statement. “These are extremely inexpensive—a few cents—and hence can be replaced without much financial burden on the patient.”