MesotheliomaHelp has covered breakthrough technology that may seem more appropriate for science fiction articles, such as the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition to design a handheld device to help diagnose health conditions, than for mesothelioma care. In another seemingly science fiction approach to medical care, scientists report a tattoo with “smart” ink could help monitor chronic health conditions.
Scientists from Harvard and MIT partnered in a “proof of concept” experiment to determine whether biosensitive inks could become a reliable standard as a biomedical monitoring device. The team wanted to find a way to check blood glucose levels, for example, without requiring a skin prick or wires, sensors and batteries, that are needed with today’s devices.
With mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer primarily striking older patients, one issue with managing the disease is the co- conditions from which many of the patients also suffer. According to data, about three out of four people with mesothelioma are older than 65 years, and nearly half them may have medical problems, such as heart disease and diabetes, that also need to be monitored.
In seeking to find the “next generation after wearables,” the researchers determined they could use biosensors directly on the skin. Dubbing the project “Dermal Abyss,” the researchers turned to pig skin for their initial testing. Tattooing the inks onto segments of the skin, the researchers watched as the colors of the ink changed based on biomarkers. In one case, a green ink changed to brown indicating increased levels of glucose. In another, they shined a blue light on a green ink that intensified in color as sodium concentration increased indicating dehydration.
Mesothelioma patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation are also vulnerable to infection, dehydration and exhaustion from the harsh drugs. Finding a way to more closely monitor these symptoms could help get the patients back on their feet more quickly. Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.
The researchers point out that this tattoo is still in the very early stages and “The purpose of the work is to light the imagination of biotechnologists and stimulate public support for such efforts,” said Nan Jiang, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“These questions of how technology impacts our lives must be considered as carefully as the design of the molecular sensors patients may someday carry embedded in their skin,” said Jiang.
Photo Credit: Harvard Medical School