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Nanoparticle "tattoo" may one day help diabetics monitor blood sugar

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More than 13,000 young people in the United States are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes each year, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Patients with the chronic disease must test their glucose levels by pricking their finger with a lancet, squeezing out a drop of blood and then testing the blood with a glucose meter. But those days of bloodied fingers may soon be numbered.

Researchers at MIT are developing a new senor technology that could eliminate the need for lancing fingers and also offer more accurate readings. According to an MIT release:

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.

To get glucose readings, the patient would wear a monitor that shines near-infrared light on the tattoo and detects the resulting fluorescence.

Stanford Professor Bruce Buckingham, MD, is mentioned in the release. Buckingham says that glucose monitoring is headed towards wearable sensors. He was not, however, involved in the MIT project.

Photo by AlishaV

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