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Science is cool

Sometimes I'm just fabbergasted at the elegance of some the scientific breakthroughs I've read about lately. For example, using nanotechnology to develop a tattoo ink that changes color depending on blood glucose levels. From http://blog.bioethics.net/:
As recently reported on Discovery News, "nanoink" allows for monitoring blood glucose in real-time right under the skin. It does so by using a hydrophobic nanoparticle that changes colors as glucose levels rise and fall. The ink consists of a glucose-detecting molecule, a color changing dye and a molecule that mimics glucose. These three particles continuously swish around in side a 120-nm orb. When glucose is present, the glucose-detecting molecule attaches and glows yellow; if absent, the ink turns orange.

The use of this technology has the advantage over traditional glucose monitoring, of course, in that there is a one-time needle stick for placing the tattoo over the tens of thousands of sticks that a diabetic will have to have over a lifetime.

Another advantage of nanoink tattooing: they can be removed. At least one researcher from Brown University has developed tattoo ink with microencapsulated beads coated with a polymer that when broken with a single laser treatment can simply be expelled from the body, as opposed to multiple laser removal treatments for conventional tattoos.

Diabetes isn't the only disease candidate for using this technology. The original research involving nanoink tattoos was for monitoring sodium levels in the body, but then it occurred to researchers that glucose could be infinitely more useful as a disease target. The potential uses for "nanoink" as a monitoring technology are almost limitless; for chronic disease monitoring, once the concept can be proven to work for more complex molecules such as glucose, almost any disease could be monitored from heart disease to hyperthyroid to various blood disorders.

. . .

It may be at least two years before tattoos for monitoring your diabetes are available on the market--so unfortunately, those strips and sticking of fingers and thumbs aren't going away for diabetics any time soon. But hopefully, someday in the not so distant future, nanotechnology will make the quality of life just a little bit better for diabetics and perhaps improve the disease management for other chronic diseases like heart disease and others as well. In the meantime, you can dream up what you want your "nanoink" tattoo to look like.
The possiblities with this stuff are just huge. Being able to detect that there's too much, or too little, of something in your blood by glancing at your wrist? I'm hoping all of my tattoos will be cosmetic, and I'll never have to get a medical tattoo, but it's pretty cool to know that they'll be out there pretty soon.


( 5 comments — Say something )
Mar. 24th, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
Wow! What a great thing! I have many diabetics in my family and I'm sure they will all want to get this. Imagine going from having to test your blood several times a day to just looking at your tattoo. Wow! That's just hella cool!
Mar. 25th, 2009 01:15 am (UTC)
That is a GREAT article. My son (sliderblackrose) is type-1 and Bruce is type-2. I happen to be hypoglycemic. It could be used for all of us.

I'm going to give that one to my kid.
Mar. 25th, 2009 06:52 am (UTC)
This would have been cool for my dad to have had as with all the other stuff, keeping up with the diabetes was a lot tougher. As I hate needles and my dad and at least one sister had it, this would be a good thing for me should I ever get diabetes. Yay science. (And yay on the bitchslap in the next post you made) :)
Mar. 25th, 2009 10:20 am (UTC)
This is awesome!! Of course, I wonder if it works in cats. BG monitoring is the same as with people, in fact we use Alex's supplies when we have to check Devo's blood. Hip cats, dogs, and rabbits are all getting ID tattoos on the inside of their ear, Devo can look hip. (Shhhh, don't tell him, but he's a nerd!)
Mar. 25th, 2009 01:57 pm (UTC)
That is just awesome.
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