CC Image courtesy of Nitro Tattoos on Flickr
Researchers at MIT and Harvard have developed a new tattoo ink that is capable of monitoring health. The ink changes colour to tell if someone is dehydrated or if their blood sugar level rises.
The ink, called Dermal Abyss tattoo ink changes colour according to the chemistry of the body’s interstitial (big word, i know) fluid, which can be used as a substitute for constituents (components) of blood. One of the inks developed changes colour from green to brown as glucose levels increase.
The other ink is green and grows in intensity as sodium concentration increases, when viewed under blue light. This increase in sodium concentration is an indication of dehydration.
In developing the Dermal Abyss tattoo inks the aim is to overcome some of the shortcomings of current biomedical monitoring devices. Current devices have a short battery life and need wireless connectivity, the smart ink solves both issues in one fell swoop. The smart ink seamlessly integrates with the body something those other devices cannot.
The project was conducted as a proof of concept. The ink was tested on pig skin and the results were noted. Refinements are still needed to stabilise the inks so that they don’t fade or diffuse into surrounding tissue before the ink can be launched as a medical product.
So the inks can tell if one’s blood sugar level has risen and also if they are dehydrated. For diabetics the smart ink telling them when their blood sugar level has risen could be a literal lifesaver. The dehydration indicator would serve athletes or those with an active lifestyle well.
In countries like Zimbabwe we will be tracking progress on the smart inks closely. The mentioned current health monitoring devices are expensive and with the connectivity requirements are not as useful over here. If the smart inks come out cheaper than current solutions that could be a big deal for health monitoring in the third world. Getting people to get tattoos though could be a challenge, permanent ink or not, what with the negative perception people have of them in this country.
What do you think about these smart inks, Dermal Abyss? Would you get a smart tattoo of your own or is this getting too close to the mark of the beast for you? Let us know in the comments below.