Biomedical E-Tattoos: A Novel Tool in the Fight Against Heart Disease

Heart rhythm disorders are a leading cause of morbidity across the globe. Thus, finding ways to detect and monitor cardiovascular-related illnesses is paramount in the fight against one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

Biomedical E-Tattoos: A Novel Tool in the Fight Against Heart Disease

Image Credit: University of Texas (UT)

Researchers led by a team at the University of Texas (UT) have developed an ingenious device that could change the way clinicians are able to monitor the heart outside of a clinical setting.

The device, which is described as an e-tattoo, is an ultrathin wearable biomedical electronic circuit that includes a pair of sensors that are able to deliver accurate results that create a clear image of general heart health.

The team believes that this device will allow clinicians to gain early insight and identify any potential signs that would indicate the onset of cardiovascular disease.

Most heart conditions are not very obvious. The damage is being done in the background and we don’t even know it.

Professor Nanshu Lu, Department of Aerospace and Engineering Mechanics, UT

Novel Wearable Biosensors

Wearable devices are changing how healthcare professionals approach clinical observations and monitoring and are revolutionizing how we think about our general health and well-being. Wearable devices provide the opportunity to track many different elements that paint a picture of an individual’s health status in real-time.

With continuous monitoring made possible away from the clinic, early diagnosis, and treatment are now possible, which could mean that 80% of heart disease can be prevented, according to the UT team.1

The novel wearable e-tattoo biosensors developed for this project emerged from the results of an earlier initiative but with some advanced features.

The latest iteration has new wireless capabilities making it more mobile; this is achieved by stringing a sequence of tiny active circuits together and arranging them in a manner to form stretchable interconnections that can be easily attached to the chest using a medical dressing.

Improved Outpatient Monitoring

The ultrathin e-tattoo devices are less intrusive than current monitoring systems and, in turn, much more comfortable for patients for long-term wear.

The e-tattoo offers a viable way to meet the standards set by clinical monitoring but with patient comfort very much a focal point. The e-tattoo, which is only 2.5 grams and made from a graphene biointerface, is powered by a penny-sized battery with a charge cycle of more than 40 hours. Moreover, the user can easily charge the device when at home.

This novel biomedical device also has the capacity to take two very important but common cardiac measurements, ECG (electrocardiogram) and SCG (seismocardiogram). An ECG measurement monitors the heart’s electrical signal, whereas the SCG provides acoustic feedback to carefully monitor the health of the heart valves.

While there are smart wearable and biomedical devices currently capable of measuring one or the other, such as a smartwatch or stethoscope, there is no solution that can track both ECG and SCG.

Those two measurements, electrical and mechanical, together can provide a much more comprehensive and complete picture of what’s happening with the heartThere are many more heart characteristics that could be extracted out of the two synchronously measured signals in a noninvasive manner.

Professor Nanshu Lu, Department of Aerospace and Engineering Mechanics, UT

Successful tests of the e-tattoo have already been performed on a test group of healthy patients that wore the device while completing day-to-day routine tasks, but the team is now focusing on diversifying their test group to include all kinds of patients.

The UT team is part of a wider cooperative group of universities that were awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation’s ASCENT program for the study of e-tattoo technology. The UT team has also adapted the technology to monitor other conditions, including pneumonia, and hopes that they can extend the range with this technology. 

The study was published in Advanced Electronic Materials, which offers a detailed overview of the latest progress of the e-tattoo project.

References and Further Reading

  1. Burkhart, R. (2023) Chest E-tattoo boasts major improvements in heart monitoring, UT News. Available at: https://news.utexas.edu/2023/04/26/chest-e-tattoo-boasts-major-improvements-in-heart-monitoring/
  2. Lin, Z., Kireev, D., Liu, N., Gupta, S., LaPiano, J., Obaid, S.N., Chen, Z., Akinwande, D. and Efimov, I.R. (2023), Graphene Biointerface for Cardiac Arrhythmia Diagnosis and Treatment. Adv. Mater. 2212190. https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.202212190

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David J. Cross

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David J. Cross

David is an academic researcher and interdisciplinary artist. David's current research explores how science and technology, particularly the internet and artificial intelligence, can be put into practice to influence a new shift towards utopianism and the reemergent theory of the commons.

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