Researchers at the University of Texas-Austin have developed an ultra-thin, temporary tattoo-like device that could store patients’ medical information and release medicine directly into their skin — a first for bio-integrated electronics.
This breakthrough could revolutionize patient care. For example, it could one day be used to treat patients with diseases such as Parkinson’s or epilepsy by tracking their movement, according to Nature.
It uses soft, flexible materials that house a 4-centimeter long, 2-centimeter wide, .3-millimeter thick device that contains sensors, RAM capabilities, microheaters and medicine. The patch sticks to skin through electrostatic force as any adhesives would disrupt electrical connectivity.
“This technology could help electronics that interact with humans be more mechanically compatible,” Nanshu Lu, an assistant professor at UT-Austin who co-authored the study, said in a statement. “In terms of application, its uses range from consumer products like rollable displays and solar cells, to personal digital health care like EKG and emotion sensors, to computer gaming.”
But doctors are still a long way off from putting the device to practical use. It only works if it’s connected to a power source and data transmitter, and researchers need to find a way to make these compact and flexible as well, Lu told Nature. Plus, the data it collects would need to be converted into a readable format for doctors to make use of it.
Many other recent advancements use electronic “skin,” including a patch that can monitor body temperature. There’s also a sensor that attaches to prosthetic limbs and allows the wearer to register things like touch and temperature. Google filed a patent in November for an electronic tattoo that could act as a microphone and lie detector.