This Tattoo Can Help Monitor Blood Sugar Levels

Science has given us many great things: space travel, no more polio, flavoring-changing gum. Now, science is revolutionizing the reason people might get tatted up. A group of scientists have recently created tattoos that change color based on blood sugar levels.

The tattoos are a result of the Dermal Abyss project from researchers at Harvard and MIT. While currently there is no intention for clinical trials or to put these tattoos on the market, the project presents future possibilities for ways we could monitor blood sugar. “Currently...diabetics need to monitor their glucose levels by piercing the skin, 3 to 10 times per day,” researchers state on the Dermal Abyss website. “With Dermal Abyss, we imagine the future where the painful procedure is replaced with a tattoo, of which the color from pink to purple based on the glucose levels. Thus, the user could monitor the color changes and the need of insulin.”

The way the tattoos work is through biosensing ink. By replacing the traditional ink, the biosensors in these tattoos change color in response to changes in interstitial fluid, which surrounds tissue cells in our bodies. The biosensors the researchers used were able to measure acidity through pH levels as well as glucose and sodium levels. So, when any of those levels fluctuated, the ink color would, too. For example, glucose sensors would change between blue and brown whenever blood sugar levels changed.

If you want to see the color-changing tattoo in action, check out this video:

In their current state, these color-changing tattoos do have their limits. Researchers suggest looking further into color range and color intensity to make the tattoo’s biosensing “readouts” more apparent. Research will also need to be done to make sure the biosensing ink stays intact and effective over time. Although the tattoos have also only been tested on pig skin, which is similar to the human epidermis, the results are promising.

These biosensing tattoos join the ranks of other technologically-based advancement in the art of tattoos. MIT has previously created a range of tattoos that turn your body into an interface, allowing you to do everything from display how you’re feeling to change the volume of the music you’re listening to. You can also get a tattoo you can hear, which inks the soundwaves of your favorite song onto your forearm. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of tattoos or would rather admire them from afar, we can all agree these recent developments in tattoo technology are changing the way we think and use tattoos.