Today, diabetics monitoring their blood sugar sometimes have to endure multiple needle pricks every day. But biomedical engineer Heather Clark of Draper Laboratory is developing a less invasive way to measure blood glucose. She describes it as a ‘nanotech tattoo.’
Heather Clark: What we envision is something very, very small, on the order of a few millimeters, which would be thousands or millions of nanoparticles, certainly.
As with an ordinary tattoo, Clark said, dye would be injected beneath the skin of someone with diabetes. But this tattoo would require only one tiny pinprick. The dye would be made of nanoparticles – microscopic molecules of plastic that would actually change color.
Heather Clark: And so when the glucose is low, the particle is yellow and it’s fluorescent, and when the glucose is high, the particle is purple, and the fluorescence goes away. And you can monitor either by color or fluoresce.
She said diabetics would have to shine a little light on the tattoo, to help get a more accurate read on its glow.
Heather Clark: Some sort of optical device no more complicated than the optical mouse on your computer…
Clark added that the tattoo would have to be periodically re-injected, because it would shed along with the skin. She hopes to see this technology up and running in five to ten years.
Our thanks to Heather Clark.
Heather Clark is an Analytical Chemist in Biomedical Engineering Group at Draper Laboratory.
Photo Credit: aldenchadwick
Beth Lebwohl researches, writes and helps produce science content in audio and video formats for EarthSky. She is one of the authors on EarthSky.org, a script-writer for our podcasts, and helps host our English science podcasts in 90-second, 8-minute and 22-minute formats. Beth came to EarthSky in 2006 from the American Museum of Natural History's Department of Astrophysics, where she was surrounded by some of the greatest telescope-building, equation-wielding, code-writing physicists of our time. And they made her think . . . this science thing . . . it's pretty cool.