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Researchers develop graphene tattoo that can continuously monitor blood pressure

A group of researchers have developed an ultra-thin, continuous blood pressure monitoring tattoo that can be worn directly on the skin. The researchers believe that this innovation will help aid in the effort to creating more personalized healthcare. (Credit: University of Texas at Austin, UT News)

A collaborative effort between University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University researchers has led to the development of a novel electronic “tattoo” that can continually monitor a patient’s blood pressure. Better health data is made possible by the e-tattoo, which is constructed of graphene and can be worn for extended periods of time without becoming uncomfortable.

To truly understand how the body is operating, continuous monitoring is required, but doing so outside of a clinical setting is challenging. Smartwatches and fitness trackers could appear to be the solution, but they aren’t yet dependable enough to rely on for accurate measurements.

Deji Akinwande, a professor at UT Austin and one of the leaders of the project, told UT News, “Blood pressure is the most important vital sign you can measure, but the methods to do it outside of the clinic passively, without a cuff, are very limited.”

If hypertension is not addressed, it might result in significant cardiac issues. Because a standard blood pressure check only measures one specific point in time, or one data point, it can be challenging to monitor.

Blood pressure readings in a variety of circumstances are made possible by the e-tattoo’s continuous monitoring system, such as in times of high stress, when sleeping, working out, etc. More measures can be delivered by this technology than any other up to this point.

Roozbeh Jafari, a biomedical engineering professor at Texas A&M University who lead the Texas A&M research effort, added, “The sensor for the tattoo is weightless and unobtrusive. You place it there. You don’t even see it, and it doesn’t move. 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.”

As one of the strongest and thinnest substances available, graphene is a crucial component of the e-tattoo, with the atoms being neatly organized into extremely thin layers.

The device operates by delivering an electrical current to the skin and seeing how the body responds; this measurement is known as bioimpedance. A relationship exists between bioimpedance and variations in blood pressure that is related to variations in blood volume. Since the association is not especially clear, the researchers had to develop a machine learning model to examine the link in order to obtain correct blood pressure measurements.

Dr. Akinwande concluded by stating, “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.”

The study was published in Nature Nanotechology on June 20th, 2022.

Abstract. Continuous monitoring of arterial blood pressure (BP) in non-clinical (ambulatory) settings is essential for understanding numerous health conditions, including cardiovascular diseases. Besides their importance in medical diagnosis, ambulatory BP monitoring platforms can advance disease correlation with individual behaviour, daily habits and lifestyle, potentially enabling analysis of root causes, prognosis and disease prevention. Although conventional ambulatory BP devices exist, they are uncomfortable, bulky and intrusive. Here we introduce a wearable continuous BP monitoring platform that is based on electrical bioimpedance and leverages atomically thin, self-adhesive, lightweight and unobtrusive graphene electronic tattoos as human bioelectronic interfaces. The graphene electronic tattoos are used to monitor arterial BP for >300 min, a period tenfold longer than reported in previous studies. The BP is recorded continuously and non-invasively, with an accuracy of 0.2 ± 4.5 mm Hg for diastolic pressures and 0.2 ± 5.8 mm Hg for systolic pressures, a performance equivalent to Grade A classification.

Kireev, D., Sel, K., Ibrahim, B. et al. Continuous cuffless monitoring of arterial blood pressure via graphene bioimpedance tattoos. Nat. Nanotechnol. (2022).

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