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Friday, July 22, 2011

IPhone tracks blood glucose with a 'nano-tattoo'

Phone sensor: This modified iPhone case can be used to detect sodium levels via a nanosensor “tattoo.” Credit: Heather Clark and Matt Dubach

By Nick Flaherty

Researchers at Northeastern University in the US have developed a technique to track blood sugar via an iPhone, aiming at cyclists initially. 
The technique uses an injection of carefully chosen nanoparticles into the skin which fluoresce when exposed to a target molecule, such as sodium or glucose. An iPhone with a modified case that includes a fluorescent light and a sensor then tracks changes in the level of fluorescence, which indicates the amount of sodium or glucose present.
Heather Clark, a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Northeastern University, presented this work at the BioMethods Boston conference at Harvard Medical School last week and reported in MIT's Technology Review.
The tattoos were originally designed as a way around the finger-prick bloodletting that is the standard technique for measuring glucose levels in those with diabetes. But Clark says they could be used to track many things besides glucose and sodium, offering a simpler, less painful, and more accurate way for many people to track many important biomarkers.
The tattoo developed by Clark's team contains 120nm-wide polymer nanodroplets of a fluorescent dye and a charge-neutralizing molecule.
The original reader was a large boxlike device but one of Clark's graduate students, Matt Dubach, improved upon that by making a modified iPhone case that allows any iPhone to read the tattoos.
Dubach and Clark hope to create an iPhone app that would easily measure and record sodium levels. 
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