By dietcherry Latest Reply 2011-11-18 00:47:35 -0600
Started 2011-11-07 22:43:23 -0600

Northwestern University in Boston has developed a tattoo that can monitor your blood sugar without constant needle pricks—a huge advancement for the 26 million Americans with diabetes.

The miniature tattoo—only a few millimeters in size—is made up of nanosensors: tiny polymer beads containing a yellow-orange dye that lights up when glucose levels are high and becomes darker as glucose levels drop.

While traditional tattoos permanently stain the deeper layers of the skin, the diabetes tattoo is applied to more superficial skin layers, so its application is less painful and it wears off over time.

The tattoo would be applied once a week and patients will use a handheld device to scan the tattoo several times a day for color changes to guide their insulin use.

The team tracked glucose levels in tattooed mice with diabetes, confirming these results with blood tests they took at the same time. If upcoming clinical trials in humans pan out, the tattoos could be on the market in a decade.

43 replies

Angelcourtisan 2011-11-13 13:18:10 -0600 Report

I've never had anything accept for a temporary tattoo. I've always wanted a real one but as I got older I thought about it and changed my mind. If it had meaning or a purpose I'd do it and if it could help monitor my bloodsugars I'd be all for it.

Mickie G
Mickie G 2011-11-13 05:16:52 -0600 Report

I don't know about the rest of you, but i am not sure I am ready to let any one tattoo me with nanosensors or any other kind of sensors! I don't like pricking my fingers any more than anyone else, but this just seems too full of possibilities and not all of them good.

Mickey/CCHT 2011-11-13 08:38:41 -0600 Report

I'm with you. I have tattoos, so that' not the problem. It's the thought of having something like that under my skin that gives me pause. What's next? A way to track us by big brother? I'm not a paranoid person per se, but it makes me wonder.

jayabee52 2011-11-14 00:13:58 -0600 Report

Just because you're PARANOID doesn't mean they're NOT out to GET YOU! LoL!

Uncle Lew
Uncle Lew 2011-11-11 10:14:30 -0600 Report

Hera is an excerpt from an article that appeared on smartplanet.

Digital Tattoo: iPhone-4 monitors blood from below the skin
By Janet Fang | July 28, 2011, 6:20 PM PDT

This subdermal nanosensor team is led by Northeastern University’s Heather Clark, who recognized the benefits of real-time, wearable health monitoring devices during her own marathon experience.
A 100-nanometer (1/10,000,000 meter) wide set of sensors are injected under the skin – like tattoo ink, but with no visible mark. The polymer nanodroplets also consist of a fluorescent dye.
Once implanted, the specialized sensor molecules will bind exclusively to sodium, glucose, or some other specific blood content.
The presence of the target triggers an ion release, which manifests as a change in florescence. The more target molecules there are in the patient’s body, the more the molecules will bind to the sensors, the more the fluorescence changes.
A customized iPhone attachment uses the camera to read the shift in color and output data. A battery-powered blue LED light causes the tattoos to fluoresce, while a plastic ring around the lens blocks out all light except light emitted by the tattoo.

The software uses built-in RGB filters to process the light reflected off the sensors.
Red shines well through skin. Pictured, how readings of blood concentration show up, with different colors indicating different sodium levels.

As of now, the data collected with the iPhone still requires a computer to process, but Northeastern’s Matt Dubach says using the iPhone to do all the work is not far off, and that an app is likely on the way. “I’m holding out for the iPhone 5,” he says. The higher-resolution camera provides more data for analysis.

The technique was published in Integrative Biology and presented at the BioMethods Boston conference at Harvard Medical School earlier this month (July, 2011).

It sounds great but I have a few questions:
Will the device be stand alone or will I have to have an iPhone?
If I need an iPhone will insurance pay for it?
Will I need an independent light source or will it be part of a stand alone device?
Will a stand alone device and an iPhone with a downloaded application be needed?
What will the application cost and will insurance pay for it?

Lots of questions to be answered and lots of hope for my poor fingers.

dietcherry 2011-11-11 13:48:23 -0600 Report

Thanks for sharing this Lew! It appears it generates more questions than answers at this point!
I found another technology being developed:


Dont like checking your blood sugar? Researchers at MIT are working on a tool that will make you very happy!
The tool is a spectograph. It shines a near-infrared light on your skin and measures the vibrations to determine your blood sugar levels.
This approach has some downsides. Most importantly, it measures the amount of glucose in your interstitial fluid (the fluid under your skin) rather than your blood. This is the same fluid measured by continuous glucose monitors.
When your blood sugars are changing quickly, it takes 5 minutes or more for interstitial fluid to reflect the change, This is important when your blood sugars are rising/falling rapidly.
The device is much bigger than your meter. The first prototypes were a big as a cabinet. They are now working on making it the size of a laptop. It will be awhile before it fits in a purse.
If the can make the device accurate enough, small enough, and affordable enough, it will quickly become an essential tool for managing D.
And how nice would a world without finger pricks be?

nanaellen 2011-11-11 23:20:14 -0600 Report

I heard they're working on a sonogram type of device that you slide on your finger and an ultra sound measures your blood sugar! But you know darned well that it won't be on the market anytime soon…all the buisness's that would loose their shirts!!! No lancet company's …no strips co…no meter co. What a wonderful world that would be!! :)

Chad1978 2011-11-10 17:22:01 -0600 Report

I love science, and I love technology. That sounds pretty neat. I bet if that does become a reality at one point the tatoo will last for a month or more rather than a week. Thanks for the info on this. I am going to have to read about it, as it really seems pretty interesting.

dietcherry 2011-11-11 13:30:46 -0600 Report

Yep! Lets keep our (sore) fingers crossed! haha

Chad1978 2011-11-11 14:13:55 -0600 Report

Ha, absolutely. I really need to start looking into one of those monitors where you can use the forearm. I barely can even feel my poor tips anymore.

dietcherry 2011-11-12 22:30:32 -0600 Report

You know I actually only use 2 fingers for testing, 5-6 times a day, and they really dont get that sore! My Doc says I have good technique! lol I know you know this but as a reminder, dial down to the lowest setting needed and test on the perimeter of your finger! :)

Chad1978 2011-11-13 13:23:26 -0600 Report

I usually use 3 fingers per hand, and test about 4 times a day, on avg. I oughta really rotate the other 2 fingers more often.

Mickey/CCHT 2011-11-09 19:16:02 -0600 Report

Why does it take so long for them to get anything going? Have they just started? 10 years, bah! I'm all about tattoos( i have a few) but like James said, who knows what those little innocent seeming beads will do to you! Interesting thought, thanks for sharing it.!

flipmom 2011-11-09 12:53:08 -0600 Report

thats really great n dandy but a decades a long time to wait for those who already have diabetes… oh well, back to hokeypokey!

sydney bristow
sydney bristow 2011-11-08 14:53:17 -0600 Report

I agree- 10 years is too late. I am not planning on having diabetes in a decade thank you very much. (haven't given up hope for the cure)

jayabee52 2011-11-08 20:57:03 -0600 Report

Howdy sidney

I for one will welcome the delay. Not that I like poking my finger, but the recent side effect problems for diabetes medications being brought to market too soon leads me to err on the side of caution. Who knows what side effects might come from long term use of those polymer beads? I may be "pushing up daisies" by the time it is truly ready for the market, but caution is warranted IMO.

And how many times has a "new" treatment been successful in Mouse studies and has flopped big time in human trials? I've lost count over the years.

Blessings to you and yours


hillwalker 2011-11-07 23:36:02 -0600 Report

another example of systemic failure this should be on the market in the next year not the next decade

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