Researchers at Harvard and MIT have developed smart tattoo ink that changes color to monitor health, such as telling an athlete when they’re dehydrated or a diabetic when blood sugar rises. The problem with current wearable monitoring devices is that they don’t seamlessly integrate with the body. Short battery life and the need for wireless connectivity are concerns, but neither of which is an issue with the simple, color-based interface of biosensitive tattoo ink. The Dermal Abyss tattoo inks change color according to the chemistry of the body’s interstitial fluid, which can be used as a surrogate for constituents. Read more for a video and additional information.
For example, one ink changes from green to brown as glucose concentration increases. The researchers also developed a green ink, viewable under blue light, that grows more intense as sodium concentration rises, an indication of dehydration. To test this, they tattooed the inks onto segments of pig skin and noted how they changed color or intensity in response to different biomarkers.
“The applications for biologically-sensitive ink are fairly broad. Ink could be incorporated into long-lasting tattoos for chronic conditions or into temporary designs for shorter-duration monitoring. Another possibility is invisible ink that reacts to a particular kind of light,” according to the paper.