July 21, 2011
Smart Phone And Tattoo Dye To Read Blood Chemicals

A fluorescent dye injected into the skin will change its fluorescence based on concentrations of a target chemical in the blood (e.g. sodium or sugar) and then a smart phone add-on can read the dye to measure blood levels of a the chemical of interest.

Using a nanosensor "tattoo" and a modified iPhone, cyclists could closely monitor sodium levels to prevent dehydration, and anemic patients could track their blood oxygen levels.

Heather Clark, a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Northeastern University, is leading a team working to make this possible. The team begins by injecting a solution containing carefully chosen nanoparticles into the skin.

You can imagine a series of small bars of dyes added to the skin to measure different chemicals. Reading it would be akin to doing bar code reading except each bar could indicate levels of a different blood chemical: sodium, potassium, glucose, etc.

This is part of a larger trend: direct consumer measurement of one's own body. Some of that measuring is going to be embedded in your environment. Imagine a toilet and sink that measure your excretions and logs them either to a home or cloud medical diagnostics server. Your bed stand will monitor your gases for signs of poor cardiovascular performance or sleep apnea. Will pillows monitor brain waves for sleep quality?

Update: Similar work has been done on glucose monitoring.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 July 21 07:47 AM  Biotech Assay Tools


Comments
David Friedman said at July 21, 2011 12:06 PM:

I've recently been thinking about a different version of the same approach.

There are some problems, such as a brain tumor or Alzheimer's, that result in a gradual decrease in some forms of mental ability. There are some people, probably by now many, who routinely use a computer game on their cell phone, laptop or desktop to pass a few minutes with nothing to do.

Suppose the computer game was set up to monitor measures of performance--reaction speed, say--and look for trends. Reaction speed trends down for a couple of months, your phone suggests that you go into the hospital for an MRI.

Randall Parker said at July 21, 2011 6:22 PM:

David,

That's a pretty interesting idea. Upon reflection: A computer game isn't the only way to do it. A smart phone with sufficiently sensitive motion sensor could detect deterioration in walking gait and trips and falls and even walking speed. Also, one's PC could track one's rate of typing mistakes. Also, a camera mounted in one's house and tied into a computer could monitor the fluidity and accuracy of one's motions.

My guess is that older people aren't much into computer games. Hence the need for alternative ways to measure mental and physical performance.

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