MIT materials experts suggest that an ink made from carbon nanotubes can be injected into diabetics, to monitor their blood glucose levels. Patients can then check their tats for any changes.
Diabetics say this beats pricking their fingers throughout the day. But the tat — which might be partially covered by wristwatch with a UV scanner on the back of it — will also mean wearing your condition on, or near, your shirtsleeve.
The technology behind the MIT sensor, described in a December 2009 issue of ACS Nano, is fundamentally different from existing sensors, says Strano. The sensor is based on carbon nanotubes wrapped in a polymer that is sensitive to glucose concentrations. When this sensor encounters glucose, the nanotubes fluoresce, which can be detected by shining near-infrared light on them. Measuring the amount of fluorescence reveals the concentration of glucose.
The researchers plan to create an “ink” of these nanoparticles suspended in a saline solution that could be injected under the skin like a tattoo. The “tattoo” would last for a specified length of time, probably six months, before needing to be refreshed.