People may have varying opinions about tattoos, but a team of researchers has developed an "electronic tattoo" that can actually be a valuable tool in health monitoring as it can measure blood pressure.
The graphene e-tattoo that the researchers created is far from the rather bulky blood pressure measuring devices that we are used to. Theirs is wearable, thin, self-adhesive, lightweight and can measure blood pressure with an accuracy that surpasses that of "nearly all" the other options currently available in the market, the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) noted in a news release.
Furthermore, they are able to measure arterial blood pressure for about 300 minutes, which is "tenfold longer" than the time period mentioned in previous studies, the researchers wrote in their paper, published Monday in Nature Nanotechnology.
"The sensor for the tattoo is weightless and unobtrusive. You place it there. You don't even see it, and it doesn't move," said study co-lead Roozbeh Jafari, of Texas A&M University. "You need the sensor to stay in the same place because if you happen to move it around, the measurements are going to be different."
In a video shared online, one can see just how unobtrusive the devices are.
Continuously monitoring blood pressure in a non-clinical setting is important in certain health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, the researchers said. The usual blood pressure checks only look at an individual's blood pressure for a certain period of time. This doesn't exactly show "how our body is functioning," Jafari explained.
"Besides their importance in medical diagnosis, ambulatory BP monitoring platforms can advance disease correlation with individual behavior, daily habits and lifestyle, potentially enabling analysis of root causes, prognosis and disease prevention," the researchers wrote.
Despite advances in blood pressure monitoring technology, current BP devices still tend to be "uncomfortable, bulky and intrusive." Furthermore, even leading smartwatches aren't "ready" yet for blood pressure monitoring.
This is partly because the watches would often slide around the wrist, making it hard to gather correct readings. It's also harder for LED-based measurements for those with larger wrists or darker skin tones.
The graphene e-tattoos can easily be used without obstruction, for instance in times of stress or even while sleeping. This can provide valuable information on one's health without having to be hooked to machines.
"All this data can help create a digital twin to model the human body, to predict and show how it might react and respond to treatments over time," said study co-lead Deji Akinwande, from UT Austin.