Using the iPhone to give the “finger” to Finger Pricks

Finger Prick to test blood glucose of diabeticDiabetics who prick their fingers several times a day to test blood glucose levels have a new reason to want an iPhone, or at least they may in the future. This new phone app may eliminate painful finger pricks.

Researchers at Northeastern University in Boston created nano-sensors that are injected under the skin like a tattoo and then glow under a fluorescent light to show the amount of glucose in a patient’s blood, according to MIT’s Technology Review. The nano-sensors are specialized molecules designed to attract and bind to specific chemicals and fluoresce when hit by the right spectrum of light.

Next, the researchers developed an iPhone attachment with 9-volt battery and 3-LEDs to provide the light source, and the phone uses its camera to send an image to a computer for analysis. Eventually, the phone should be able to do that itself.

Drug Absorption Over Time

Nano-sized particles can be carefully chosen to track many things besides glucose and include other important biomarkers. Cyclists could monitor sodium levels to prevent dehydration. Anemic patients could track iron levels. Respiratory and cardiac patients could measure blood gases. And people could monitor the level of absorption of a given drug in real time, allowing for much more accurate dosing.

Tattoo Tracks Sodium and Glucose via an iPhone
Phone sensor: This modified iPhone case can be used to detect glucose or sodium levels via a nanosensor “tattoo.” Credit: Heather Clark and Matt Dubach

Flourescant TattooAs cool as this technology is, I can imagine some downsides. Would people be able to see your nano-tech tattoo under the black lights of a night club? What if it becomes a fad to inject fluorescing particles in patterns like a real tattoo? Some people are already doing it.

What do you think? Reply below. See also: WebMD slideshow on Blood Sugar Control & Insulin.

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2 Responses to “Using the iPhone to give the “finger” to Finger Pricks”

  • Mark Riley:

    Hey what’s latest on this monitoring system is there a time line for its release yet*

    • Thanks, Mark, for your interest in this research. I wrote Dr. Heather Clark, a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Northeastern University to ask about the status of her research project and how long it might take to be commercialized. If I hear from her, I’ll post the response here and let you know. 

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