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How the Graphene Blood Pressure Tattoo Will Change Monitoring – Health | HowStuffWorks

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Whether it’s a smartwatch that tracks your heart rate or a device that doctors can use to remotely monitor your heart, wearable technology is revolutionizing the way we access our own health information.
Well, some of our own health information anyway. For most people, monitoring blood pressure still means winding a cuff around the arm — whether in a health care setting or at home — and waiting for the squeeze as it inflates and then deflates to reveal a blood pressure reading. And even then, the reading is merely a moment in time and not a continual monitoring of blood pressure, which can and typically does frequently change throughout the day.
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Now there is good news on the horizon regarding the ability to continuously monitor blood pressure. Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University have developed a noninvasive solution for continuous blood pressure monitoring at home — in the form of a temporary tattoo.
The findings, outlined in the article "Continuous cuffless monitoring of arterial blood pressure via graphene bioimpedance tattoos," were published in the June 20, 2022, issue of Nature Nanotechnology, and developed with funding from the Office of Naval Research, National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.
The newly designed electronic tattoo is made with graphene, which is considered one of the strongest — and thinnest — materials in the world. The composition of graphene is similar to the graphite used in pencils, but when graphene is used as a temporary tattoo, it provides a waterproof way to measure the skin’s electrical currents and the body’s response to changes in blood volume. Prototypes of the electronic tattoo can be worn for up to a week to provide continuous blood pressure readings.
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"With this new technology, we are going to have an opportunity to understand how our blood pressure fluctuates during the day. We will be able to quantify how stress is impacting us," Roozbeh Jafari, Ph.D., a professor of biomedical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science at Texas A&M and a co-author of the study, told WebMD.com.
The use of graphene has proven instrumental in the temporary tattoo’s ability to accurately gather blood pressure data. Unlike, for example, the UV-monitoring temporary tattoos already on the market, graphene is so thin that it can eliminate the movement-caused data deterioration that can come with thicker tattoos that don’t adhere as easily to the skin.
The raw data captured by the newly developed blood pressure tattoo must still be translated by a machine-learning algorithm into millimeters of mercury (mmHg), which is the typical unit of measurement for understanding blood pressure. The data can’t yet be transmitted and read by applications on a smartphone or smartwatch; participants who wear the blood pressure tattoos must remain connected to a circuit board that translates the data.
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Currently, the blood pressure-reading temporary tattoo is not commercially available, but a second generation is being developed that will undergo clinical trials and which may then hit the market within the next five years. No word yet on whether it will be covered by health insurance. However, the second generation of the blood pressure monitoring tattoo will likely be designed for use with Bluetooth technology and near-field communication (NFC) that will both transfer data and power the tattoo.
"Everyone can benefit from knowing their blood pressure recordings," Deji Akinwande, Ph.D., a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and another co-author of the study, told WebMD.com. "It is not just for people at risk for hypertension, but for others to proactively monitor their health, for stress and other factors."
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If current research trends are any indication, there’s sure to be a raft of "tech tatts" in our future. Among the most promising is a temporary tattoo-like sensor that measures sun exposure, blood oxygenation levels and heart rate. Developed by a team of researchers at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the device is powered by any nearby smartphone or tablet signal.
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