SAN DIEGO – Researchers at the University of California San Diego Center for Wearable Sensors have developed a needleless glucose monitor, called a “tattoo sensor,” which measures insulin levels through sweat on skin.
The tattoo is printed with material containing two electrodes that apply a small amount of electrical current, forcing glucose molecules that reside below the skin to rise to the surface to be measured.
“Just like a kid’s temporary tattoo, you apply it on the arm, dab with water and remove the back paper,” said Patrick Mercier, director of the UCSD Center for Wearable Sensors, in a statement. “It’s safe and you can’t really feel it.”
The sensor is being tested in the ENGAGE Study (Studying the Effectiveness of Non-Invasive Glucose Sensors in Patients with Diabetes), taking place at UC San Diego’s Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute, where a research team is testing the tattoo sensor’s accuracy at detecting glucose levels compared to a traditional glucometer.
Participants wear the sensor during fasting, at various times up to a couple of hours after eating. To validate accuracy, glucose levels from the sensor will be compared to results from simultaneous finger stick glucose readings.
Mercier said that if produced on a mass scale, the tattoos could be priced equally to what glucose test strips cost today, which is about $1 per single-use strip. The sensor currently can take one reading, but the research team is hoping to develop it to take continuous readings.
“The beauty of the technology we are developing is that it is a truly noninvasive means to measure glucose,” said Mercier. “The main purpose of our research is to develop new technologies that can monitor glucose without drawing blood and ideally measure it over the course of the day. By giving this real-time information to patients, they can manage their consumption of sugars and injections of insulin much better than with periodic spot measurements.”