An ultrathin, lightweight e-tattoo watches for heart disease red flags

Chest e-tattoo boasts major improvements in heart monitoring.

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Globally, cardiovascular illnesses are the leading killers. Cardiovascular monitoring that is accurate, noninvasive, and ongoing enables early diagnosis of heart conditions and prompt treatment to avert life-threatening cardiac consequences. However, conventional electronics are rigid, heavy, or consume too much power for long-term measurement, making unobtrusive, ambulatory, and thorough cardiac monitoring challenging. 

Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin have developed an ultrathin, lightweight electronic tattoo, or e-tattoo, that attaches to the chest for continuous, mobile heart monitoring outside of a clinical setting. Equipped with two sensors, the tattoo offers a clear picture of heart health.

According to scientists, it could provide a major boost in the fight against heart disease.

Nanshu Lu, a professor in the aerospace and engineering mechanics department at the University of Texas at Austin, said, “If we can have continuous, mobile monitoring at home, then we can do early diagnosis and treatment, and if that can be done, 80% of heart disease can be prevented.”

The e-tattoo weighs only 2.5 grams and runs on a battery the size of a penny. The battery has a life of more than 40 hours and can easily be changed by the user. It is wireless and mobile, enabled by several small active circuits and sensors. Stretchable interconnections link circuits and sensors and conform to the chest via a medical dressing.

It offers two significant cardiac measures. The electrical signal from the heart is called an electrocardiogram or ECG. The acoustic signal from the heart that originates from the heart valves is called a seismocardiogram, or SCG.

Those two measurements offer a much more comprehensive and complete picture of what’s happening with the heart.

Lu said“There are many more heart characteristics that could be extracted out of the two synchronously measured signals in a noninvasive manner.”

The device has already been tested on five healthy people, with measurements having a low error rate compared to other monitoring devices currently in the market. The next step entails expanding to various patient types and conducting additional testing to confirm the preliminary findings.

Journal Reference:

  1. Sarnab Bhattacharya, Mohammad Nikbakht, Alec Alden, Philip Tan, Jieting Wang, Taha A. Alhalimi, Sangjun Kim, Pulin Wang, Hirofumi Tanaka, Animesh Tandon, Edward F. Coyle, Omer T. Inan, Nanshu Lu. A Chest-Conformable, Wireless Electro-Mechanical E-Tattoo for Measuring Multiple Cardiac Time Intervals. Advanced Electronic Materials. DOI: 10.1002/aelm.202201284

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