Medical Tattoos Could Serve as Health Monitoring Parameters, Scientists Find

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Pharmaceutical scientists have developed an innovative diagnostic technology, to monitor health conditions through the skin with the use of “medical tattoos”, a statement from the International Pharmaceutical Federation, FIP, has revealed.

The novel diagnostic equipment, works with micro-needles placed into the skin, which forms medical tattoos and thereby provide new method of monitoring health parameters in real time.

Presenting their findings at the FIP’s 7th Pharmaceutical Sciences World Congress, the researchers from the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Montreal, Canada described micro-needles as needles so small (typically with a length less than 0.5mm) with painless insertion.

They reviewed previous investigations into the use of micro-needles as channels for medicines and vaccines delivery, while the Canadian scientists particularly experimented the use of micro-needles as an agent which gives a fluorescent signal that could be measured with a portable detector in a point-of-care or home setting.

The researchers showed that they were able to optimise a fluorescent agent for use in the skin, develop dissolving micro-needles, formulate the agent to be compatible for delivery via the micro-needles, and measure the rate of lymphatic drainage, which is an indicator of lymphoedema.

Further investigation with agents that react with physiological analytes in the skin, such as reactive oxygen species (an indicator of inflammation), is ongoing, the scientists stated.

“The skin — the largest organ in the human body — carries a great deal of health-related information, and micro-needles could help us to access this,” said researcher Sam Babity, PhD student at the university’s laboratory of pharmaceutical micro and nanotechnology.

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In a related development, findings by pharmaceutical scientists in Japan has shown that the thiazolidinedione troglitazone inhibits internalisation of hepatis B virus (HBV).

The research outcome presented at the FIP’s Pharmaceutical Sciences World Congress, stated that “Current anti-HBV agents, including nucleoside analogues and interferons, can reduce viral load, but are not generally curative. Thus, the development of anti-HBV agents with different modes of action is required to improve treatment outcomes,” said Kento Fukano of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Japan.

Fukano further explained saying “Virus internalisation into host cells is the initial step of infection, which means that this compound could be used for post-exposure prophylaxis. However, as viral entry is also essential for the initiation, spread and maintenance of viral infection, troglitazone is also a potential treatment for chronic hepatitis B”.

In addition, he said a mechanism of action has been identified as: troglitazone was found to clearly impede the oligomerisation of NTCP (sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide), which is an entry receptor. “These results suggest that the oligomerisation of NTCP has potential to regulate HBV internalisation and it can serve as a new target for the development of anti-HBV agents,” Fukano added.

According to the researchers, troglitazone is the first small molecule that has been shown to act in this way, potentially expanding the landscape of treatment options. “Hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) is a human-derived antibody that can neutralise infection. It is currently the only entry inhibitor to have obtained approval for treatment, but its use is limited by cost and supply issues as HBIG is obtained from vaccinated human donors. In contrast, troglitazone is cheap, we can maintain a more stable supply, and it can be administered orally, which is an advantage for developing countries with scarce medical resources,” Fukano explained.

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