Scientists have developed a new electronic “tattoo” that can monitor a patient’s blood pressure continuously. The e-tattoo is made of graphene and can be worn for long periods without getting in the way, allowing for better health data.
Having the cuff tightened around your arm in the doctor’s office is the standard method of measuring blood pressure, but it’s not the most reliable way. It’s only a single data point that doesn’t necessarily capture the whole picture, and it can be influenced by a person’s mood at the time.
Continuous monitoring is needed to really understand how the body is functioning, but that’s hard to do outside of the clinic. Smartwatches and fitness trackers may seem like the answer, but they aren’t reliable enough to handle the job just yet – they tend to move around, and are too simple.
So for the new study, researchers at Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin developed a less invasive device that can measure blood pressure over time. The device is what’s called an e-tattoo, made up of a graphene sensor encased in a sticky material that’s apparently comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time, and doesn’t move around. Other e-tattoos have been designed to monitor cardiac patients’ hearts, vital signs during exercise, or muscles of neurodegenerative patients.
The new device makes its blood pressure measurements using a new method, so the team had to develop machine learning models to analyze the readings. It works by firing an electrical current into the skin and measuring how the body reacts – a value called bioimpedance, which has an indirect correlation with blood pressure that the new models can calculate.
In tests, the e-tattoo was able to accurately monitor blood pressure in arteries for more than 300 minutes. Ultimately, the team hopes to develop the tech into e-tattoos that can be worn by patients long-term to measure their blood pressure in a range of situations, including sleeping, exercise, and during stress. That data is important to help diagnose or monitor health conditions.
The research was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Source: University of Texas at Austin
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