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First-of-its-kind nanoscale tattoo attaches to individual cells

Date: 7.8.2023 

Researchers have created a nanoscale electronic ‘tattoo’ sensor that can attach to a live, individual cell without damaging it. The breakthrough development could be used to monitor cell health and puts us one step closer to getting the jump on disease diagnosis.

Kredit: Kam Sang Kwok & Soo Jin Choi, Gracias Lab/Johns Hopkins University.Researchers from Johns Hopkins University built the tiny tattoo sensors out of gold nanopatterns because of the element’s high conductivity and ability to prevent signal loss and distortion. Their goal was to bridge the gap between living cells and conventional sensors and electronic materials.

“If you imagine where all this is going in the future, we would like to have sensors to remotely monitor and control the state of individual cells and the environment surrounding those cells in real time,” said David Gracias, a corresponding author of the study. “If we had technologies to track the health of isolated cells, we could maybe diagnose and treat diseases much earlier and not wait until the entire organ is damaged.”

Attaching an electronic tattoo to something as small as a human cell is a challenge, not only because of the cells’ size but because the structure needs to be flexible enough to mold to the cell’s curved surface, needs to stay attached and can’t damage the cell.

“We’re talking about putting something like an electronic tattoo on a living object 10 times smaller than the head of a pin,” said Gracias. “It’s the first step toward attaching sensors and electronics on live cells.”

Image source: Kam Sang Kwok & Soo Jin Choi, Gracias Lab/Johns Hopkins University.




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