Getting Inked for Your Health

TattooingFrom professional athletes, to Hollywood celebrities, to folks living in your neighborhood……a lot of people are sporting tattoos these days. Now, a new joint project between Harvard and MIT may have a lot of first-timers running out to get inked up!


There’s a common problem with health-tracking devices like smartwatches: they’re not really attached to you, which leaves you relying on a short-lived battery and a wireless connection. Even a self-powered patch has its limits. That’s where Harvard and MIT think they can help: they’ve developed smart tattoos that effectively place health sensors in your skin, no power or wireless link required. The ink in the tattoos reacts to the chemical composition of your interstitial fluid, which reflects the state of your blood. A green ink grows more intense to let athletes know when they’re dehydrated, while another green ink turns brown to warn diabetics when their glucose levels go up.

Harvard put together a short video on the project titled “DermalAbyss.” You can watch it by clicking here or on the picture below.


Before you start picking out a spot to put your new “healthy” tattoo, check out what wrote, “There are currently no plans to develop DermalAbyss as a product or to pursue clinical trials, but researchers created the ink to show the possibilities of continuous monitoring without painful procedures such as the daily piercing of skin to observe glucose levels.

“The purpose of the work is to light the imagination of biotechnologists and stimulate public support for such efforts,” said Nan Jiang, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “These questions of how technology impacts our lives must be considered as carefully as the design of the molecular sensors patients may someday carry embedded in their skin.” pointed out, “Current monitoring devices—a smartwatch or fitness tracker, for instance—don’t seamlessly integrate with the body (at least, not like inserting dyes into the dermis layer of the skin does). Plus, they require frequent recharging and wireless connectivity. Color-based biosensitive tattoo ink, on the other hand…“We wanted to go beyond what is available through wearables today,” Ali Yetisen, a Tosteson postdoctoral fellow at HMS and Massachusetts General Hospital, added.

Forbes Magazine added, “the idea of talking tattoos is intriguing and opens up a whole set of future possibilities, ranging from your doctor also being your tattoo artist to having bar codes on your body. One day, instead of people asking you about your tattoo, they may ask your tattoo about you.”

Share your thoughts on this latest technology and whether you believe this is something we may one day see. Generating conversations around the health stories making headlines is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!




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