New patches on the skin that could pick up when you're going to be poorly
00:34 GMT, 27 March 2012
Forget waiting for an appointment with your GP, electronic skin patches could soon monitor your health.
Tiny patches, just the thickness of a human hair which stick to the skin like a temporary tattoo, have been created which can check your heart rate and other vital signs.
Professor John Rogers of Illinois University said the devices could transform the treatment of patients who would otherwise spend hours in a doctor’s surgery or hospital rigged up to bulky equipment.
Skin patches to monitor your health could soon be on the market
He believes the electronic skin patches – which have been in development for around 12 years – could be used by both healthy people and those with various medical conditions.
Hundreds of thousands of patients require electrical procedures – such as ECGs and EEGs – to measure their heart, brain and muscle activity, he told the American Chemical Society’s annual conference in San Diego yesterday.
Currently this is done using cumbersome machines that take data from wires or pins on the skin. His team has created patches which can do this ‘in a completely non-invasive way while a patient is at home’, he said.
The patches look like the microchips from a mobile phone or laptop, but are made of incredibly thin silicon membranes designed to be unobtrusive – stretching or moving with the body.
As well as heart rate, they contain sensors which can measure dehydration – often a symptom of heart problems or diabetes – tiny fluctuations in temperature, and the swelling and contraction of muscles which is a sign that tissue is healing.
The patches could even replace electrical procedures such as ECGs and EEGs in measuring heart, brain and muscle activity
He has devised them to transmit the data to your computer or mobile phone – and on to your doctor for analysis, he said. They could be used to make the muscles contract and get wounds to heal faster, he said.
Although the first prototypes washed off after a day, his latest model lasts around 10 days, enough for most patients, and is resistant to soap, water or sweat. It comes off naturally as the skin exfoliates.
Rogers, a professor of material science, engineering and chemistry, has launched a company to market his invention and the first products aimed at athletes will be on the market later this year.
He believes the skin patches, which still require more testing, will first be used in hospitals and clinics but his aim is to make them available in the shops for less than 10 US dollars (6.27).
He told the Mail: ‘The near term opportunities will be for people with conditions of the heart, or conditions such as diabetes, on a preventative basis as they need a lot of monitoring.
‘But the broader and bigger area of application is health and wellness monitoring for individuals in good health, to pick up early signs of disease.’