A new multifunctional wearable device, described as “electronic skin” that can not only take vital signs but deliver medications when needed, is taking previous reports of flexible, paper-thin electronic devices that stick onto patients to the next level.

Sensors, like this one held by University of Tokyo professor Takao Someya, are part of a new wave of biotechnology. A recent study found that a device similar to this could deliver medications and could also store and transmit data, which was something similar devices had not demonstrated. (AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO)

Sensors, like this one held by University of Tokyo professor Takao Someya, are part of a new wave of biotechnology. A recent study found that a device similar to this could deliver medications and could also store and transmit data, which was something similar devices had not demonstrated. (AFP/Yoshikazu Tsuno)

A recent study by a team out of South Korea and the United States published in the journal Nature Nanotchnology described how they overcame technical challenges that face such devices, including “physiological sensors, non-volatile memory and drug-release actuators.”

According to Nature, the patch with all these electronics is 4 centimeters long, 2 centimeters wide and only 0.003 centimeters thick.

Stephanie Lacour, an engineer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology who was not involved with developing this technology, told Nature that what’s special about this device is how it is able to stores and transmits data locally.

Mechanical engineer Nanshu Lu with the University of Texas-Austin, who is a co-author of the study, told Nature that while the ability of this device to hold data is new, it still only works when connected to a power source and transmitter. Both of these things also need to be prototyped to be small and flexible as well because current options are too rigid.

The goal of such wearable technology, according to University of Texas’ website, is to conform to the body for sensing, stimulating and energy harvesting purposes. While many prototypes of such devices take the form of a sticker worn on a patient’s skin, the Austin American-Statesman reported that it could one day be embedded into certain areas of the body and provide more targeted, less invasive treatments compared to current options as well.