Researchers Develop a “Smart Tattoo” That Can Revolutionize Blood Sugar Checks for Diabetics

Could your next tattoo help monitor your health? New research from MIT suggests that medical tattoos may soon be a reality., Montri Thipsorn/ShutterstockTattoos can be a great way to express yourself, showcase beautiful art, or pay tribute to someone you love and admire. Just make sure you ask these seven questions before commit to ink. Now there may be another reason to consider a tattoo, thanks to new research out of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Media Lab: Students there and at Harvard have created a color changing tattoo ink that can monitor the glucose levels and chemical balance of your blood.

The research group found a way to replace tattoo ink with liquid biosensers that change color in response to shifts in the blood. Right now, diabetics monitor their blood sugar by pricking their skin for a drop of blood three to ten times a day. The biosensor ink replaces the needle pricks by continually responding to changes in glucose, sodium, and the chemical balance of the blood with shifts in color—from blue to brown as blood sugar rises, for example. This could enable diabetics avoid or cut down on dangerously large swings in blood sugar.

According to the group’s website: “In the same way that the wearables industry is integrating fashion practices into its development, we envisage participation between the biotech industries and skincare professionals, such as prosthesis experts and tattooists, in order to embrace the idea of human device symbiosis,” the group said.

While the group continues to test their product, there are others at work on versions of tattoo-like devices that could potentially change the way we monitor our health. Scientist and materials expert John Rogers, PhD, at the University of Illinois, has created a paper-thin flexible electronic mesh that can track body temperature, hydration levels, and heart rate, among other measures. Applied like a temporary tattoo, this technology could make it much easier to test heart health and even brain function. Imagine: Your next tattoo could very well save your life.

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