September 1, 2011

Are There Six Million Dollar Guinea Pigs?

No, I don't think you will be that valuable. When they start talking electronics in or on humans all I can think about is the six million dollar man – Lee Majors. I do not anticipate the “electronic tattoos” will be that expensive. There are some interesting ideas being proposed for electronic tattoos that may well have some very real health benefits for many people. Whether something for diabetes will be among them in the near future remains to be seen.

Ultra-thin electronics are being experimented with that may in the near future have applications for monitoring patients that will do away with some of the bulky equipment that is being used today. Some applications may be a little futuristic; however, some real applications are possible in the near future, the FDA doing its job.

One of the applications that may be near is a patch that can be applied to the chest and give doctors access to heart monitoring that is remarkably close to information produced by the electrocardiogram.

John Rogers, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Illinois and other institutions in the U.S., Singapore, and China, have developed a system "of epidermal electronics" that almost exactly match the properties of the skin.

The patch contains electronic monitors that are integrated onto a water-soluble polyester backing (elastomer). It is attached to the body by brushing it with water. Weak forces of attraction between the skin and the backing cause the patch to stick to the skin like super-adhesive cling film. The patch is extremely thin -- less than the diameter of a human hair.

Since the skin represents one of the most natural places to integrate electronics, the researchers note the the patch has been used effectively for 24 hours without skin irritation. The present problem is that the surface skin cells of the skin are shed and renewed, a new patch would have to be attached at least every two weeks. The patch has yet to be tested with a range of skin conditions, from dry to sweaty.

What is interesting is this technology will work in non-medical applications such as a patch attached to the throat incorporating an microphone. This is being developed for the possible use for people with some disabilities so that they can use computers. Read the article here.

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