New ‘electronic skin’ monitors and treats patients by itself

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Researchers have developed a new “electronic skin” wearable device that tracks patient motion, reads medical diagnostic information, and even administers medicine automatically by releasing drugs into the skin.

The device is as thin as a temporary tattoo, and is the first of its kind to both monitor and treat patients, and could eventually be employed to help patients with mobility disorders like Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy, reports.

Stretchable nanomaterials engineered to detect temperature, motion, store data, use microheaters and administer drugs are layered with soft, flexible skin-like material to make a 4-centimeter long, 2-centimeter wide and 0.003-centimeter thick sticky patch.

“The novelty is really in the integration of the memory device,” Swiss Federal Institute of Technology engineer Stephanie Lacour said while commenting on the research team’s work.

Before the device can be deployed for widespread patient use engineers will have to design similarly small battery and data transmitter components. According to study co-author and University of Texas in Austin mechanical engineer Nanshu Lu, the technology required already exists, but has yet to be converted into a small, thin and flexible size like their electronic skin device.

“It’s a pretty complicated system to integrate onto a piece of tattoo material,” Lu said. “It’s still pretty far away.”

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