Smart Tattoo To Benefit Diabetics - New Product

If tests run true, then one day diabetics may never have to prick their fingers to test their blood sugar.

Students at Louisiana Tech University's Institute for Micromanufacturing think they can create a "smart tattoo" that will enable diabetics to use light to measure their blood sugar rates.

While the tattoo remains in the early research stage, Quincy Brown, a 25-year-old doctoral student, sees its far-reaching implications.

The tattoo part comes from an individual having nano particles injected into the skin. A spectrometer using special, filtered light would activate the nanoparticles, and a readout on a spectrometer would indicate blood sugar levels.

Brown has built on research by a fellow doctoral student at Tech, Patrick Grant. The 26-year-old Grant has studied placing nano-sized sensors in the brains of rats to see if he can obtain real-time reading of the changes in glucosamine.

Grant said he uses a spectrometer to excite the nanoparticles. The color of light - red in this case - indicates the amount of glucosamine in the rat's brain.

So far, the nano particles in the brain haven't caused any decay. "There's no tissue response or cellular death," Grant said.

Being able to test changes in brain chemistry in real time allows researchers in the pharmaceutical industry to better understand how certain drugs will react in a diabetic.

Knowing that nano particles seem successful for Grant, Brown took the idea a step further.

Diabetics generally use a blood test that calls for them to prick their fingers for a sample to spread on a piece of paper or to submit directly into a small machine that reads out the glucosamine or blood sugar level.

"The prick is painful, messy and bothersome," Brown explained. "Some diabetics have to test their blood seven times a day."

But Brown must test the body's effect on nano particles and vice versa. That work began recently when Brown injected some mice with nanoparticles to determine the body's immune response to the foreign material. He found white blood cells investigated the material during the first week and fibroblasts formed around the material by the fourth week.

The fibroblasts will affect the nanosensors somewhat, but an adjustment in the software of the light reader will compensate for that.

But Brown still has more unanswered questions. "We'll do the experiment again, and start another study in a month," he said. 

Posted 20th October 2003

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