The Dermal Test Leap – Color-changing Tattoos To Monitor Health!

Supriti Tripathy

14th Nov'21
The Dermal Test Leap – Color-changing Tattoos To Monitor Health! | OpenGrowth

Who would have thought that tattoos could be medically significant in addition to leading the weird fashion trend? Well, welcome to the era of amalgamation of science and technology. MIT and Harvard's scientists came together to introduce a tattoo ink that changes color in response to a change in your sugar levels. They named the project DermalAbyss where the person getting inked gets a tattoo of their choice, whereas the tattoo yields more work than just styling. It could read the health parameters of the person through the body's fluid interaction and tell if the person has issues of sugar, ph, or sodium levels. But how can a tattoo do that? What role does technology play here? Let's understand the intricacies of the experiment of color-changing tattoos.


The Experiment

In a series of experiments, scientists have tested many theses to come to a revolutionary conclusion. We will take a peek at two of such investigations. 


JGU Thesis

As per the Nano Letters journal, the researchers at Germany's Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz(JGU) inserted sensors under the skin of a few hairless rats. These sensors were chip-sized and made of gold nanoparticles that change colors, sensing a change in surroundings. The rats were then administered with doses of an antibiotic. How they responded to the medicines was captured in the sensors. Interestingly, the sensors remained functional for many months.


color changing tattoos


The gold nanoparticles proved to be a practical choice to mold into sensors. The reasons were:

1. They implied an easy coat of different receptors and responded visibly.

2. The body penetration and response had no harmful effect on the living being.

3. We can easily avail them in the future for the development of drugs for immedicable diseases.

Hence the process enables putting implantable sensors the size of a penny embedded in an artificial tissue under the skin. The color change in the sensor can detect the problem persisting in the human body concerning an excess or deficiency of glucose or sodium levels. However, the drawback being the sensors lose their effectiveness over time, and the body starts rejecting it.


DermalAbyss Project

As per this project, the researchers brought in three different inks that respond when in contact with the body's interstitial fluid. They used it on pigskin patches and used injections to vary the level of fluids they needed to detect. They worked to replace the traditional ink with the sensor ink so that the skin displays gorgeous art, and beneath it, the sensors play their magic to track the body's parameters. All for a great purpose, and it could help patients take immediate measures by looking at the color change. The sensor goes from blue to brown if the glucose level increases. 


color specifics


The other two sensors read up the ph and sodium levels, respectively. A change from pink to purple in the sensor denotes a rise in ph level, and when the skin shines green under the sun, it means high sodium levels.


Mirroring the Fashion Game

Tattoos have long been an attractive art display that lets humans uniquely express themselves. People adore getting pricked for showing off what they believe in and displaying the sides of their personalities. The projects thereby successfully make a difference by reflecting the metabolic process in the skin and styling it. Individuals who love the idea of tattoos can find no better product than the one that can also monitor their health. We have added a dimension in the smart light-emitting tattoos, and it is a breakthrough proposition since it aims to improve millions of lives.


Decoding the Red Flags

Maintaining health is not just a personal fitness trend; it is the crucial root that makes everything look good and desirable. People today are conscious about their diets, workout routine, and everything that revolves around their health. In such times, the above experiments open doors of immense possibilities for the future of healthcare industry. People who need constant monitoring of specific body parameters like Type-1 and Type-2 diabetics, kidney patients, women, etc., can benefit significantly from such devices. Patients and doctors can finally stop worrying with the hope of eyeing similar but bigger and better devices in the future.


future of healthcare


Technology Taking No Breaks

With the help of technology, researchers have come a long way in bringing out this revolutionary concept to reality. However, the DermalAbyss project is still at its initial phase and has to go for further rounds of meticulous testing. It is still to be worked out on other animals and needs to be tested for allergies or side effects. The question is whether it would impact people having comorbidities and the accuracy of the color changes. However, the amalgamation of biosensors, technology, medical and body art has brought a happy prospect.

We must realize that we are in the biggest era of technological revolution. From the advent of cloud computing to AI governance, we are seeing it all. We have seen a glimpse of the future tech in bone conduction headphones and technology that charges smartphones in 5 minutes. Although dermal research is the first of its kind, color-changing tattoos that could monitor your health provide wings to expand our horizon of imagination. It is letting us use that imagination to convert into successful research and reality. 


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A believer of good things and pursuer of diverse avocation, she is a fiction lover and a simple writer. Supriti has a number of professions to her list and she feels challenges are the only answers to failures.