Data Acquisition

Health Monitoring Tattoos

29 September 2017

Researchers from MIT and Harvard have created tattoo ink that can inform the wearer of vital health data.

The smart tattoo biosensitive ink—which was developed as an alternative to current cumbersome biomedical monitoring devices—can alert athletes if they are dehydrated or can signal diabetics when their blood sugar spikes, simply by changing color.

“We were thinking: new technologies, what is the next generation after wearables?" said Ali Yetisen, a Tosteson postdoctoral fellow at HMS and Massachusetts General Hospital. "And so we came up with the idea that we could incorporate biosensors in the skin."

According to researchers, the current methods for tracking health via monitoring devices don’t naturally align with the human body. Likewise, battery life is another concern that could be addressed with the color-based interface of the tattoo ink.

Called “Dermal Abyss,” the inks will change color in response to the body’s interstitial fluid chemistry.

Researchers will continue to work on improving the technology and envision it having broad applications.

"The purpose of the work is to light the imagination of biotechnologists and stimulate public support for such efforts," said Nan Jiang, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. "These questions of how technology impacts our lives must be considered as carefully as the design of the molecular sensors patients may someday carry embedded in their skin."

For information on the technology, watch the accompanying video.

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