Smart Tattoo Developed by Scientists can Detect Changes in Health

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Body ink could soon be used to detect medical emergencies.

Researchers from MIT and Harvard have developed a color-changing “smart tattoo” that can detect blood sugar levels and dehydration.

They use a special ink called Dermal Abyss, which is enhanced with fluorescent and colorimetric biosensors that change color based on the chemistry of the sodium, pH, hydrogen ions, and glucose present in our body’s interstitial fluid.

The researchers tested the tattoo using pieces of pigskin. They applied the tattoo, and then injected relevant solutions to mimic increased glucose or pH into the skin.

Depending on what is being tested for, the ink will change colors. For example:

  • pH changes turn the ink from purple to pink
  • Glucose changes turn the ink from green to brown
  • The sodium indicator’s shade of green becomes more intense in UV light

It’s possible that these tattoos will soon be vital in helping to manage certain diseases. Rather than pricking their finger each day, diabetics would simply monitor changes in the tattoo’s color to check their blood sugar. It could also help monitor sodium levels for dehydration and kidney function.

The team of researchers have noted that the tattoo features other advantages such as weightlessness, it uses no charging or electricity, and skin changes will not affect its use.

So, what if you don’t want a visible tattoo? No problem! The tattoo can be applied with invisible ink that will only change colors when hit with a certain light, like that from a cell phone.

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