Specialized ink measures blood sugar levels through reusable test strips and has the potential to be drawn directly on the skin.

While drawing on your body is something elementary school teachers tend to discourage in the classroom, a little picture on the wrist could be the newest — and did we mention pain free — way for diabetics to test their glucose levels.

New ink laced with bio-sensors developed by researchers at the University of California San Diego substitute a store bought ball point pen for a finger prick.

The ink combines enzymes glucose oxidase with electrically conductive graphite powder to become an electrode. The ink reacts to glucose in the skin or blood to determine blood sugar levels.

The specialized ink offers multiple uses for diabetics. When drawn on the body, the ink can test glucose levels directly through the skin, no needle needed. Drawing the sensor on your wrist won’t deliver a read out to let diabetics know whether or not they need a shot of insulin, but researchers are confident the ink can easily connect to Bluetooth for a smartphone reading, according to a study published last month in Advanced Science.

In the meantime, the ink also works in conjunction with a flexible strip to replace traditional plastic or paper tests. What makes these strips superior is that by simply wiping away the ink, it can be used multiple times. It still requires pinprick of blood but could be a cheaper option, as current test strips are one-time-use only.

And the benefits don’t end there. The study indicates promising use beyond the diabetic community. The ink can be drawn on leaves to determine environmental pollutants or on buildings to test for other chemicals.

Since the ink is stored in a traditional pen, the ease of transporting such sensors could prove revolutionary for testing chemicals with little notice or set up. But first, they have to figure out a way to monitor the results just as easily. 

Learn more about the glucose sensors at the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering’s website and by watching the video below:

  Top photo courtesy of the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering

Top photo courtesy of the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering