From temporary tattoos to glucose breathalyzers, a Purdue engineer seeks better health on the go

Jackie Linnes

Jackie Linnes is endeavoring to create new diagnostics that can be used in remote areas without sophisticated laboratories. (Photo by Vincent Walter)

3/20/2017 |

Imagine diabetics no longer having to prick their fingers to test their blood sugar. Elderly patients wearing a temporary tattoo that shows their doctors if they’ve taken their medicine.

These far-fetched ideas are becoming a reality, thanks to Purdue researchers looking into new diagnostic platforms and low-cost devices.

One of those innovators is Jacqueline Linnes, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, who specializes in creating paper-based devices to instantly diagnose diseases in the field that previously took days in a lab. She is collaborating with other researchers to make a  quantitative test that will empower officials to track water quality, helping to prevent cholera’s spread in Haiti.

Linnes is also working with researchers in Kenya on a tool to diagnose neonatal sepsis, a major cause of newborn illness and mortality around the world, particularly in low-income countries.

The goal of her lab is simple: to create real-time detection technologies to prevent, diagnose and better understand the pathogenesis of diseases. To that end, she is creating a breathalyzer to replace a traditional diabetes glucometer requiring finger pricks and a liquid bandage to detect drug overdose in real time.

“Anything we can do to empower patients to take control of their health and do a better job staying healthy while reducing medical costs is good; if you can keep people healthy, it’s cheaper all around,” says Linnes. “I’m excited to develop high-tech solutions and combine these with low-tech innovations so that we can make robust devices for anybody, anywhere in the world to use.”

– Sarah Anderson, Research Communications,