How about a healthy tattoo?

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While tattoos usually hold aesthetic or emotional importance for most people, there are some great ideas that can make them useful, and even healthy. Thanks to the work of a research group of the MIT, tattoos could one day be used to help the lives of people living with diabetes.

Woman with tattoo

Somedays, there could be tattoos that help in monitoring health (Photo: pixabay.com / Free-Photos)

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The researchers of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab developed a tattoo ink that changes its color depending on the levels of the blood glucose and pH found in the body. The project, named DermanAbyss, was done in cooperation by the students of the MIT (Katia Vega, Xin Liu, Viirj Kan and Nick Barry) and the students of Harvard Medical School (Ali Yetisen and Nan Jian).

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The goal of the researchers was to turn human body into a kind of interactive display, and to achieve this goal, they replaced the conventional tattoo ink with biosensors - a type of fluid that change when reacting to the changes happening in the blood flow. The team working on the project said that they developed four kinds of biosensors that can react to three biochemical information of the human body, and they do so by changing colors.

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There are three information altogether that the biosensors can show. Namely, the pH-sensor's colors vary on a purple and pink hue, the blood glucose sensor changes from blueish to brownish colors, while the second pH-sensor and the sodium sensor make a fluorescent glow under UV-light.

While the tattoo ink is in a test phase right now, it's been tested on pig skin. During this test, researchers analyzed the possible ways of getting the ink into the skin. Yet, one day it can be used on human skin too, and then it can provide a great help for medical professionals and patients as well.

This kind of color changing ink could be especially useful for monitoring the health of those who live with diabetes. For them, it could mean the end of the constant measurement of their blood glucose levels, and yet, they could get information about their state more easily and frequently. In fact, all they'd need to do is taking a look at their tattoo.

Anita Diós

February 2019