It’s not every day being “cool” and “diabetic” get used in the same sentence, but researchers have joined the two concepts, creating tattoos that change color based on the blood sugar levels of the person wearing them.
These color-changing tattoos turn your body surface into an ‘interactive display’ to alert you when blood sugar is too low or high.
Diabetes is a Common Disease
In both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, the patient’s body struggles to naturally maintain blood sugar or ‘glucose’ levels.
And if glucose levels aren’t managed, the sufferer has a high risk of severe complications such as blindness, nerve damage, heart disease, fatigue and kidney failure.
So, to combat this condition, the patients have to regularly measure their blood sugar levels and inject a corresponding dose of the hormone insulin.
Insulin Helps Your Body to Take Glucose into Tissue Cells by Opening up Membrane Channels
Arguably, one of the most common methods to check blood sugar levels is with a finger prick. Unfortunately, this method can be expensive in terms of cost and time.
However, researchers have developed new color-changing ink that responds to sugar levels in your body.
This project has been dubbed Dermal Abyss (D-Abyss) and is a collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab and Harvard Medical School.
How These Diabetes Tattoos Work
The ink senses changes to the body’s interstitial fluid—the liquid that surrounds tissue cells in the body.
When the glucose-sensing tattoo ink detects a change in blood sugar levels, it changes its color.
Researchers now suggest these tattoo inks, which they say are currently just at the ‘proof of concept’ stage, could offer “better ways of monitoring the body” in the future.
MIT researchers have also developed biosensing tattoo inks that monitor the body’s salt and pH levels.
The Project Is Currently in the Testing Phase
Researchers used pig skin to test the efficacy of the color-changing ink.
If blood sugar is low, it changes from brown to blue, and if high, it changes from blue to brown.
According to Katia Vega, a post-doctoral associate at MIT and a member of the team:
“Currently, during daily activities and alimentary habits, diabetics need to monitor their glucose levels by piercing the skin, 3 to 10 times per day.”
“With Dermal Abyss, we imagine the future where the painful procedure is replaced with a tattoo, of which the color from pink to purple based on the glucose levels.”
“Thus, the user could monitor the color changes and the need of insulin.”
Getting a one-time tattoo can save time and money, especially if you don’t have coverage for glucose devices.
Hopefully, this project will turn into a product soon.