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Researchers develop smart tattoos that use color changing ink for medical info

04 October 2017

However the problem with current wearables is that they need to be worn 24/7 if you want to monitor your vitals all the time, and given that battery life isn't infinite, it isn't ideal just yet.

"We were thinking: New technologies, what is the next generation after wearables?" A green ink becoming increasingly more intense if you're dehydrated, while another green ink can turn brown to let people with diabetes know when their glucose levels increase.

While the tattoo device is not yet available on the market as a product, researchers have already demonstrated its success following tests on pig skin, with colour changes observed in response to different biomarkers. Several injections in the skin were done in order to understand the visibility and functionality of the biosensors.

The stabilizing ink does not fade or diffuse into surrounding tissue and only changes color according to the chemistry of the body's interstitial fluid-which can be used as a surrogate for constituents of the blood. They believe the designs could be a less-invasive way to monitor things like hydration in athletes (by checking sodium levels) or blood glucose in diabetics.

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Harvard Medical School postdoctoral fellow Nan Jiang-who also works with Brigham and Women's hospital-said: "The objective of the work is to light the imagination of biotechnologists and stimulate public support for such efforts".

The scientists presented the advantages of this biotechnology, including the ability to use it without electricity or charging, its weightlessness, and the fact that changes in a person's skin would not affect how these tattoos work.

But the researchers did note that the ink could potentially be useful in a wide variety of applications - from monitoring chronic conditions, to creating temporary designs for shorter-duration monitoring. 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. Those issues need to be sorted before the tattoo ink could be used for medical needs. "The objective of the work is to light the imagination of biotechnologists and stimulate public support for such efforts", she said.

Researchers develop smart tattoos that use color changing ink for medical info