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There's a Tatt for That

Researchers at Northeastern University have come up with a way to measure sodium and glucose levels in the blood that combines the iPhone with fluorescing nanoparticle tattoos.

According to a report this week in MIT's Technology Review, the technique involves "tattooing" the skin with a solution containing nanoparticles that fluoresce when exposed to certain molecules. The level of fluorescence indicates how much of a given molecule (glucose or sodium, for example) is present in the blood.

The iPhone, with some modifications, then measures the level of fluorescence. Those modifications include a filter for the iPhone's camera and a three-LED array, according to the report.

Measuring sodium levels could help athletes detect dehydration, while measuring glucose levels could provide diabetics with an alternative to finger pricking.

Currently, the report said, there is no app for measuring and recording levels. The iPhone takes an image, which is then transferred to a computer for analysis. But the researchers are looking to develop an app to handle the analysis on the go. Plans also call for the development of a nanoparticle solution to measure oxygen and nitrogen levels in the blood.

Findings were presented last week at Harvard's BioMethods Boston conference. Additional details can be found in Technology Review.

About the Author

David Nagel is edtorial director, education for 1105 Media's Public Sector Media Group. A 22-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).

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