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Color-changing tattoo that monitors human blood
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Color-changing tattoo that monitors human blood

by Samuel OnyikeOctober 3, 2017

Many people go with tattoos when they want to give a visual expression of themselves. Medically, soon they could be used for more practical applications, like tracking blood alcohol levels or turning the skin into a touchscreen device like Cicret Band.

Recently, a team from Harvard and MIT has developed a smart ink that could make for tattoos that monitor biometrics like glucose levels, and change color as a result and the codenamed the work “Dermal Abyss”

If you’ve been consistent with the fast paced tech innovation, then you must have come across smart watches that can monitor human body bio state, although not really a downside the smart watches usually need batteries for power and wireless communication systems to transmit data. Using biosensitive inks (bio-inks), the Harvard and MIT design is self-contained, and since it works on simple chemical reactions it doesn’t require power for any data processing or transmission.

The inks interact with the body inner fluid, that does the work of transferring nutrients into cells and carries waste out of them. The fluid works closely with blood plasma, making it acts a decent indicator of the chemical concentrations in the blood at a given time.

Dermal Abyss project is already in progress and two different forms of the ink have so far been tested on in vitro patches of pig skin. One is designed to monitor a patient’s blood glucose levels, changing color from green to brown as that concentration increases. The second type tracks sodium concentration to prevent dehydration by turning a brighter green the more sodium is detected.

While the idea behind Dermal Abyss is for patients to keep track of certain biometrics just by glancing at their tattoo, the difference in color might not always be visible to the naked eye. To take more precise readings, the team has also developed a prototype of an that can analyze those biometrics with a scan or photo of the ink. The Dermal Abyss is currently a proof of concept, but the researchers say it could monitor a variety of biometrics down the track. Privacy could be a concern, since people might not want to literally wear their health information on their sleeve, but to counter that the ink itself could be made to only show up under certain light. For example, the sodium-tracking bio-ink is only viewable under blue light.

The tattoos also don’t last very long at the moment, and although the researchers are working on improving the ink’s staying power, that could be a feature and not a flaw: the team sees an opportunity for tattoos that monitor the body over both short and long time periods, depending on the needs of the patient.
The research team presented at the 2017 ACM International Symposium on Wearable Computers and the demonstrated the Dermal Abyss system in the video below.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ok5RucH09Sw]

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About The Author
Samuel Onyike
Epigrammatic tech-savvy writer. He loves to write on the ever changing technology topics and sees the human mind as the first virtual reality. Samuel doesn't need a manual to use a device even for the first time. He'll beat you in football games.

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