Researchers develop smart tattoos that use color changing ink for medical info

Researchers working together at Harvard and MIT have developed a new ink for tattoos that is able to monitor health and change color to warn of certain medical issues. The ink could change colors if the person is dehydrated or if the blood sugar rises. The inks used in the tattoos are biosensitive and the tech seeks to merge tattoo art with medical monitoring devices.

The researchers say that the issue with current wearable monitoring devices for medical uses is that they don't integrate well with the body. These devices also have a short battery life and need wireless connectivity. The biosensitive tattoo would need none of these things. The project is called Dermal Abyss and was conducted as a proof of concept.

The team is still working the concept and needs to stabilize the ink so designs don't fade or diffuse into surrounding tissues. Those issues need to be sorted before the tattoo ink could be used for medical needs. The ink changes color based on the chemistry of the interstitial fluid in the body. The ink the researchers developed right now is able to change from green to brown as glucose levels increase.

The green ink that is viewable under a blue light grows more intense as sodium concentration increases, which is an indication dehydration. The tattoo seen in the image was put onto segments of pig skin. The applications for the sort of tattoo ink is broad, once the kinks are worked out. The tattoos could be long lasting for chronic conditions or temporary designs for short-duration monitoring.

The ink can also be invisible for those who want the monitoring capability, but don't want a tattoo everyone can see. These invisible inks can only be seen under certain colors of light that could be produced by your smartphone. The researchers do have an app that is able to analyze an image of a sensor and provide diagnostic results. Harvard researchers were in the news a few months back after creating an exoskeleton that lets people run further and faster.

Source: Harvard