A Tattoo For The Heart: E-Tattoo

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Image Credit: Cockrell School of Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin ©

What can be better than real-time heart monitoring that can give an accurate electrographic picture of the heart’s activity?

With the worldwide rise in the heart diseases and the deaths associated with it, the researchers and engineers from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, and the University of Texas at Austin, USA, led an international collaboration to reveal a new wearable device that revolutionized the monitoring of the heart.

This electronic tattoo or digital tattoo technology utilises a lightweight, stretchable, piezoelectric polymer called polyvinylidene fluoride, that can be pasted on the skin to measure certain vitals like heart activity, body temperature, skin hydration, and even respiratory rate. It works by converting mechanical stress and movements into electrical charges. This can then be remotely controlled via smartphones. The ultra-thin (about 1.5 μm) stretchable characteristic of the e-tattoo is the secret behind its comfortability and its skin-like texture. Almost no discomfort is elicited even if placed for an extended period.

An added feature of Lu’s e-tattoo that it tells you where you can paste it on the chest. It does this by using 3D image correction technology to map out a location on the chest wall where chest vibrations are best detected.

For ECG we can always go to the doctors, what is the benefit of e-tattoo then?

In a doctor’s office, electrical activity is usually monitored for a couple of minutes or during the said amount of time. With e-tattoo, the monitoring is constant which plays a crucial role in people with heart diseases. Moreover, its recording capacity is not limited to ECG only.

When placed on the chest, it simultaneously records the heart’s activity in two ways:

  1. Electrocardiograph
  2. Seismocardiograph.

 An electrocardiogram (ECG) records the pulsating heart’s electrical activity in the form of a graph on an ECG paper that most of us are aware of.

A lesser know term is Seismocardiography (SCG). So what is Seismocardiography (SCG)?
It is the measurement of the vibrations of the chest with each heartbeat. SCG results have an adjuvant effect on ECG. It assures the accuracy of ECG readings.

“We can get much greater insight into heart health by the synchronous collection of data from both sources,” said Lu, an associate professor in the departments of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and Biomedical Engineering.

A smartphone app that can wirelessly control it, stores the collected data, shows real-time heartbeat and also wirelessly power the e-tattoo so it can go on for a longer period.

Can the recording be affected by artefacts?
The ultra-thin and highly sensitive e-tattoo minimizes motion artefacts and other potential artefacts such as perspiration impart no significant effect owing to the breathability of the mesh-like material used for e-tattoos. 

They could even send alerts to medical systems. For example, if a patient’s heart rate becomes critical, the device could automatically call an ambulance and transmit data to emergency medical staff.

E-tattoo is a door to the future of health management. It does not only record constantly, but also automatically transmits data to the medical personnel in emergency situations. More research and studies are being done in this regard to make such devices more compatible with daily use making it a life-saving measure, especially for those with cardiac diseases.

References:

AUSTIN, J. H.-U. (2019, June 23). ELECTRONIC ‘TATTOO’ MONITORS HEART FOR DAYS. Retrieved from FUTURITY: https://www.futurity.org/electronic-tattoo-heart-monitor-2088342-2/

Lu, T. H. (2019, May 21 ). A Chest‐Laminated Ultrathin and Stretchable E‐Tattoo for the Measurement of Electrocardiogram, Seismocardiogram, and Cardiac Time Intervals. Retrieved from Advanced Science: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/advs.201900290

MCSWEENEY, K. (2020, January 24). E-Tattoos Are Futuristic Healthcare Wearables. Retrieved from NOW.: https://now.northropgrumman.com/e-tattoos-are-futuristic-healthcare-wearables

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Dr. Arsia Hanif has been a meritorious Healthcare professional with a proven track record throughout her academic life securing first position in her MCAT examination and then, in 2017, she successfully completed her Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery from Dow University of Health Sciences. She has had the opportunity to apply her theoretical knowledge to the real-life scenarios, as a House Officer (HO) serving at Civil Hospital. Whilst working at the Civil Hospital, she discovered that nothing satisfies her more than helping other humans in need and since then has made a commitment to implement her expertise in the field of medicine to cure the sick and regain the state of health and well-being. Being a Doctor is exactly what you’d think it’s like. She is the colleague at work that everyone wants to know but nobody wants to be. If you want to get something done, you approach her – everyone knows that! She is currently studying with Medical Council of Canada and aspires to be a leading Neurologist someday. Alongside, she has taken up medical writing to exercise her skills of delivering comprehensible version of the otherwise difficult medical literature. Her breaks comprise either of swimming, volunteering services at a Medical Camp or spending time with family.

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