These Biosensing Tattoos Change Color When Your Health Is at Risk

Jessica Miley

Scientists from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed biosensing ink that can monitor blood levels in real time through color-changing tattoosThe incredible discovery is not tipped to be taken into clinical trials but does open up thinking about new ways of real-time health monitoring. 

These Biosensing Tattoos Change Color When Your Health Is at Risk

[Image Source: Viirj Kan, Katia Vega/MIT]

Tattoo ink responds to changes in cell fluid

The ink responds to changes in the liquid our cells are suspended in. This liquid called the interstitial fluid contains information about our blood glucose, sodium, and ph levels. The levels in our body are in constant flux. Understanding their fluctuations can give us an insight into our body’s health.

The idea of the project, called DermalAbyss, is to tattoo individuals in a pattern of their choice. The ink used in the tattoo would then change color according to changes in their interstitial fluid.

These Biosensing Tattoos Change Color When Your Health Is at Risk

[Image Source: Viirj Kan, Katia Vega/MIT]

The researchers have selected four biosensors that react to the changes in the cell fluid. pH sensing ink changes between purple and pink, the glucose sensor moves between blue and brown and the sodium and a second pH sensor shine at a higher intensity under UV light.

Good news for diabetics

The tattoo ink designed to respond to glucose levels could assist a patient with diabetes to measure their blood sugar changes. The ink that measures pH levels could be important for a patient at risk of stroke or heart disease. The tattoos could also be used for people working under intense conditions as a way to monitor their general health.

The invention is an incredible mix of science, art and bio-sensor technology.  While at this time, the researchers have no plans to go further into clinical trials. The project will have profound effects on the industry.  There is no doubt, this research will be used again in the future for expanded applications.  

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Wearable technologies are a growing industry and research field. Diabetes particularly has embraced new methods of blood monitoring. The tattoo idea would be non-invasive after the initial tattoo and would be much harder to damage than current wearable monitoring devices.

More than 10 percent of the United States population has diabetes. Most diabetes patients require daily blood monitoring of some kind.  

The scientists have opened up the possibility of other application for the tattoos, stating on their website, “It could be used for applications in [continuous] monitoring, such as medical diagnostics, quantified self, and data encoding in the body.”

Tattoos that hear

Using tattoos in bio-sensors isn’t a new idea though. Tattoos that can ‘read’ audio and tattoos that could control smartphones are already being developed.

Project DermalAbyss is described as "a proof-of-concept that presents a novel approach to bio-interfaces in which the body surface is rendered an interactive display.” So while DermalAbyss isn’t likely to be available to consumers anytime soon, it does give us a small indication of the future of health monitoring!

Sources: Futurism, MIT

Featured Image Source: Fluid Interfaces/Vimeo

SEE ALSO: MIT and Microsoft Create Tattoos That Can Control Smartphones

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