iPhone peripheral reads glucose from nano-tattoo

By Brian Dolan

Credit: Heather Clark and Matt Dubach

Technology that allows sodium and blood oxygen levels to be monitored with an iPhone via a nanosensor "tattoo" is currently being developed, reports Technology Review. A team at Northeastern University's Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences lead by professor Heather Clark is working on the project, who recently presented her work recently at the BioMeds Boston conference at Harvard Medical School.

The project began as a way to check blood glucose levels in diabetics without the need for finger-prick bloodletting. The technology works via two major components: first, a solution containing certain nanoparticles is injected into the skin. These nano particles fluoresce when exposed to a target molecule (in this study, that includes glucose and sodium).

An iPhone inside a modified case, created by one of Clark's graduate students, is then pressed to the skin and tracks changes in the level of fluorescence, which then reveal the amount of sodium or glucose present. The custom iPhone case contains a nine-volt battery, a camera lens filter, and a three LED-array that produce visible light which causes the tattoos to fluoresce. The LED light is filtered out by the lens, leaving only the fluorescent light. Currently, the iPhone only takes images of the tattoo, which are then analyzed on a computer. The team has plans to create an iPhone app which would allow analysis on the phone.

"I don't think there's any doubt that this sort of technology will catch on," Jim Burns, head of drug and biomedical research and development at Genzyme told Technology Review.

Clark has plans to expand the technology beyond detecting glucose and sodium to include dissolved gases like nitrogen and oxygen in the blood. The nanosensors would also allow people to monitor the amount of a drug in their blood for more accurate dosing.

Read more about the project in the TR report here.