Electronic tattoo revolutionizes monitoring of patient’s and provide a breakthrough in computer gaming, say US scientists. They used the device, which is thinner than a human hair, to monitor the heart and brain. These sensor’s attach to human skin just like a temporary tattoo and can move, wrinkle and stretch without breaking. The researchers managed to use this to control a simple computer game.
Researchers hope it could replace bulky equipment currently used in hospitals. A mass of cables, wires, gel-coated sticky pads and monitors are currently needed to keep track of a patient’s vital signs. Scientists say this can be “distressing”, such as when a patient with heart problems has to wear a bulky monitor for a month “in order to capture abnormal but rare cardiac events”. With the tattoo, all the electronic parts are built out of wavy, snake-like components, which mean they can cope with being stretched and squeezed.
In the study, the tattoo was used to measure electrical activity in the leg, heart and brain. It found that the “measurements agree remarkably well” with those taken by traditional methods.
Prof Todd Coleman, from the University of Illinois, said:
“If we want to understand brain function in a natural environment, that’s completely incompatible with studies in a laboratory.
“The best way to do this is to record neural signals in natural settings, with devices that are invisible to the user.”
The device was worn for up to 24 hours without loss of function or skin irritation.
However, there are problems with longer-term use, as the skin constantly produces new cells, while those at the surface die and are brushed off, meaning a new sensor would need to be attached at least every fortnight.