Electronic 'skin' to aid remote patient monitoring

A new ultra-thin, skin-adherent sensor may take your remote patient monitoring program to the next level, according to a recent report in Science Magazine. Researchers tested a material that can be attached to the skin like a temporary tattoo and record a host of vital signs including cardiac rhythms, pulse rate, muscle contraction and other biometrics.

The electronic device, created out of rubbery polyester, can wrinkle or stretch without losing contact with the skin, or losing signal strength, the report says. Researchers compared their results to normal electrodes, which are usually attached with gel and taped in place, and found their signal as "high quality" as conventional electrodes.

"You can put these on someone's skin and they can wrinkle their forehead. They could frown," University of Pennsylvania bioengineer Brian Litt tells ScienceNews. "The materials science is just wonderful."

The flexibility allows the device to be placed on areas that electrodes normally don't work, like the throat or on joints or limbs that have a full range of motion. The device also adheres for up to 24 hours without causing rashes or irritation, even on the face, researchers report.

"Our goal was to develop an electronic technology that could integrate with the skin in a way that is mechanically and physiologically invisible to the user. It's a technology that blurs the distinction between electronics and biology," co-designer of the device John Rogers with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said in a American Association for the Advancement of Science press release.

Researchers indicate they're working on wireless capability for the devices, and alternate power sources such as body heat. The devices also will have to be tweaked to address the shedding of epidermal cells from the skin's surface, and sweating.

To learn more:
- read the Science Magazine article (sub required)
- check out the MedPage Today summary
- get more details from ScienceNews