Soon your body ink could detect medical emergencies.
Color-changing “smart tattoos” that can detect dehydration and blood sugar levels have been developed by researchers at Harvard and MIT.
The special ink, called Dermal Abyss, is enhanced with colorimetric and fluorescent biosensors that change color based on the chemistry of the pH, sodium, glucose, and hydrogen ions present in the interstitial fluid of our bodies.
Testing was done using segments of pigskin, with the tattoos added, then relevant solutions mimicking increased pH or glucose were injected into the skin.
The colors change depending on what the ink is testing for: pH sensing ink changes from purple to pink, increased glucose levels change from green to brown, and the sodium indicator’s green becomes more intense under UV light.
These tattoos could be vital in managing certain diseases. Instead of pricking their fingers daily, diabetics would be able to use these tattoos to assess their blood sugar. Monitoring sodium levels monitor dehydration and kidney function.
In the paper, “The Dermal Abyss: Interfacing with the Skin by Tattooing Biosensors,” presented in September at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers in Hawaii, the researchers noted the advantages of the tattoo biotechnology, including its weightlessness, its use without electricity or charging, and changes in the skin will not affect their use.
Wearers of the tattoo wouldn’t have to have a visible tattoo if they didn’t want one — the tattoos can be invisible until hit with certain color lights, which could be produced by a cell phone.
There is an accompanying app that analyzes the tattoo and potential uses could include wearable devices like Apple Watches or FitBit’s that could monitor the tattoos, perhaps on the wrist, and collect important health information on the wearer.