Temporary Tattoos for Diabetics Monitor Blood Glucose Levels

Temporary Tattoos for Diabetics Monitor Blood Glucose Levels

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have tested a proof-of-concept tattoo that extracts and measures glucose

Emma Hutchings
  • 26 january 2015

Adhesive wearables hold lots of promise for fitness and health monitoring in the future. One such proof-of-concept device has been developed by nanoengineers at the Universtiy of California, San Diego: a new temporary tattoo that monitors blood glucose levels.

The flexible, easy-to-wear device extracts and measures the level of glucose in the fluid between skin cells. It was developed and tested by graduate student Amay Bandodkar and colleagues in Professor Joseph Wang’s laboratory at the NanoEngineering Department and the Center for Wearable Sensors at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UCSD. The device consists of patterned electrodes printed on temporary tattoo paper.

temporary tattoos diabetics
A very mild electrical current applied to the skin for ten minutes forces sodium ions in the fluid between skin cells to migrate toward the tattoo’s electrodes. These ions carry glucose molecules also found in the fluid and a sensor measures the strength of the electrical charge produced by the glucose to determine overall levels.

Lots of people with diabetes need to test their glucose levels more than once a day, using devices with a tiny needle to extract a small blood sample from their fingertip. Researchers have been looking for less invasive ways for them to monitor glucose.

temporary tattoos diabetics
The temporary tattoo was applied to a number of volunteers, who didn’t report any feelings of discomfort during the test. They ate a carb-rich meal in the lab to see how well the tattoo picked up the spike in glucose levels after eating, and the device performed just as well as a traditional finger-stick monitor.

This temporary tattoo could be used to continuously monitor the glucose levels of a large number of the population, helping researchers learn more about the causes and potential prevention of diabetes. It could also measure other chemicals such as lactate (a metabolite analyzed in athletes in order to monitor their fitness), be used to test how well a medication is working, and detect alcohol or illegal drug consumption.

The research team is now working on ways to make the tattoo last longer while keeping costs down.


+Adhesive wearables
+Amay Bandodkar
+fitness / sport
+Market Research
+San Diego
+temporary tattoo
+Universtiy of California

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