MIT Develops Colour-Changing Tattoos That Monitor Your Health in Real Time

tattoos monitor health

Statistically, around 10 percent of western populations have one form of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes has become a major silent killer, contributing often to what we consider an avoidable death. Unlike cancer, type 2 diabetes is slow to progress and is controllable; healthy lifestyles and exercise can even reverse it.

Unfortunately, poor diets and a sedentary lifestyle are becoming all the more common. For those actively avoiding the sugar that dominates our food supplies, it’s still an uphill battle. For those who continue to indulge in sugary cravings, the writing is on the proverbial wall, wreaking havoc on our insulin production.

Insulin helps with the conversion of consumed sugars into energy. When the body has insulin problems, the sugar in our blood rises. Dangerous blood sugar levels that remain unchecked means serious issues with other vital organs. Therefore, diabetic households often own a simple finger prick device to check blood sugar levels (BSLs) daily.

But now MIT researchers have come up with an easier way to check BSLs without the constant finger pricking. Stylish and different, MIT researchers are currently developing a colour-changing tattoo that can detect BSL changes. Acting as a biomarker, the DermalAbyss tattoo contains ink with four biosensors. These biosensors can detect changes in our body fluids.

DermalAbyss: Possibilities of Biosensors as a Tattooed Interface from Fluid Interfaces on Vimeo.

The DermalAbyss changes from purple to pink to mark the pH level changes. The glucose sensor will vary from blue to brown, recording the blood glucose level changes. There are two other biosensors that detect a second pH level and sodium level, changing under high intensity UV light. The user can then monitor the colour changes and therefore the need for insulin.

“The Dermal Abyss creates a direct access to the compartments in the body and reflects inner metabolic processes in a shape of a tattoo. It could be used for applications in continuously monitoring such as medical diagnostics, quantified self, and data encoding in the body,” the MIT Media Lab said.

The breakthrough research would change the lives of diabetics for the better. With no need for constant finger prick tests and expensive strips to test BSLs, the investment of one tattoo would better monitor a diabetic’s health.

Currently, the product is being tested on pig skin, and although the developers claim there are no plans to develop DermalAbyss for clinical trials, other studies have shown this to be an effective pathway for advancement.


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