Color-changing Tattoo Ink Could Monitor Medical Conditions

Harvard, MIT boffins ink up with health-monitoring 'smart' tats

However that might be a problem that researchers at Harvard could have solved as they have developed a smart tattoo that stays on the wearer's body and can also offer up similar tracking features. The colors change according to whatever the ink is testing: pH testing ink goes from purple to pink, while increased glucose turns green to brown, and green becomes more intense under UV light for sodium.

Nan Jiang, co-researcher and postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School study, said: "The goal of the work is to light the imagination of biotechnologists and stimulate public support for such efforts". Ali Yetisen, who is a Tosteson postdoctoral fellow at HMS and Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a statement. "And so we came up with the idea that we could incorporate biosensors in the skin".

Unlike detecting blood oxygen, the smart tattoo ink leverages changes in interstitial fluid of human body to change its colour.

As a result, whenever sodium or glucose levels increase the ink changes its colour indicating signs of dehydration or an increase in blood sugar levels.

The researchers say that the issue with current wearable monitoring devices for medical uses is that they don't integrate well with the body.

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Those smart tattoos have the potential to replace wearable electronic biosensors and, once applied, would be less invasive than other monitors without the need to change out or charge batteries. To take more precise readings, the team has also developed a prototype of an app that can analyze those biometrics with a scan or photo of the ink.

The team is still working the concept and needs to stabilize the ink so designs don't fade or diffuse into surrounding tissues.

The tattoos, made with the help of such inks, can be invisible and can only be readable under particular kinds of light.

Speaking to Inverse, study co-author Nan Jiang said: "This work could be expanded to monitor athletes and their health levels, people who have chronic conditions that need to be monitored like diabetes, and it could even be used on astronauts to monitor their health in space".

"The objective of the work is to light the imagination of biotechnologists and stimulate public support for such efforts", Jiang said.

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