Tiny Injectable Biosensor can provide long-term Alcohol Monitoring

Published Date : Apr 11, 2018

Engineers from the University of California San Diego have discovered an ultra-low power and tiny chip that can be implanted just beneath under the skin’s surface to gain long-term and continuous alcohol monitoring. The chip is wirelessly powered with the help of a wearable device such as a patch. The aim of the researchers behind this invention is the development of an easy to use, routine device for monitoring alcohol uptake for patients undergoing substance abuse treatments.

The tiny, injectable biosensor could help overcome the many limitations of conventional tools for routine monitoring of alcohol levels in blood. Devices such as Breathalyzers, for instance, are clunky, require initiation from the user’s end, and are not accurate. While blood test is the most accurate, it has to be undertaken by trained technicians. There have been some innovative products in the area of late, including the tattoo-based sensors. However, these alcohol sensors, which can be worn like a tattoo on the skin, are only for single time use and can be easily removed.

Thus an injectable biosensor, which can be administered to patients without having to undertake a surgery, could allow patients to more easily follow a prescribed monitoring course for longer durations of time. The tiny biosensor chip measures only about one cubic millimeter and can be injected in the interstitial fluid under the skin.

The chip contains a sensor that is coated with alcohol oxidase, which is an enzyme that reacts with alcohol and generates a byproduct that can be easily detected electrochemically. The signals are then transmitted to a wearable device wirelessly, which also power the chip. The chip also contains two more sensors to measure pH levels and background signals.