With the global tech boom leaving no rock unturned, the world of tattooing is feeling the effects of new technology, and thus far, the new ideas have been embraced. Recently we’ve seen soundwave tattoos, new types of ink that are easier to remove, and digital tattoos. The newest technological tinkering is coming out of labs at MIT, where they are developing a type of ink that provides biometric feedback called Dermal Abyss. The ink is responsive to glucose levels and pH in the interstitial fluid, and will change colors based on the interstitial milieu. For those of you who aren’t science or medical nerds, interstitial fluid is simply the solution that surrounds tissue cells.
This technology could be an important advancement for patients with diabetes. For a long time now, researchers and doctors have been struggling to come up with a method for measuring blood sugar levels in diabetic patients without piercing the skin 3-10 times a day. Anyone who develops a method for doing so is probably going to win some kind of award, maybe even a nobel prize. This new technology may be a step in the right direction, or it may even be the solution itself. Instead of 3-10 painful pricks of the finger every single day for the rest of a person’s life, this tattoo would only require one session of discomfort to create the tattoo. The question is, how accurate will the tattoo be compared to the medical testing devices that are available today?
The ink is capable of measuring more than just glucose, in fact, it has a total of four biosensors. All of the biosensors work by changing color. There is a sodium sensor, which could be helpful to people who are trying to control their blood pressure, and for monitoring dehydration. The other two sensors measure pH levels. One of the pH sensors reacts under UV light, which gives a dazzling effect in the right scenario.
Just last year, the same MIT lab (known as Media Lab) created a type of temporary tattoo that could be used to interact with devices connected to WiFi. It seems that his lab is keeping its collective eye on wearable technology and tattoo technology, so it’s only a matter of time before they cook up another idea and advance the field of fashion and medicine with tattoos. One of the lab’s researchers said “We believe that in the future, on-skin electronics will no longer be black-boxed and mystified. Instead they will converge towards the user friendliness, extensibility, and aesthetics of body decorations.” This statement should excite tattoo aficionados, because it shows this lab has no intention of slowing down, they will continue to develop Dermal Abyss and more.
For this idea to catch on I think the researchers will need to address a few key factors. One is that, they aren’t using traditional ink, they are using biosensor material, so they will need to determine the longevity of the material. Will it fade and lose it’s ability to accurately detect sodium, pH, and glucose? If so, how often will people need to go in for maintenance of their tattoo, or maybe they will even need an entirely new design. Another drawback is that this technology has only been tested on pig skin, so it will have to go through rounds of testing to make sure it is safe and effective on people too. However, with all those drawbacks aside, this technology could be a game changer for diabetics, and others with long-term medical conditions, so stay tuned!