Some researchers are developing tattoos that can change color in response to changing sodium and blood sugar levels, and this is something that could make life a lot easier for diabetes patients.
These tattoos will not be just decorative statements, they will also be able to tell you what’s happening inside your body. The team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Harvard Medical School, just developed the tattoo ink that will change its colors in response to changes in your body.
The three different inks that have been developed change color in response to changing pH levels, sodium levels and also blood sugar levels. The project is called Dermal Abyss and is still in the earliest stages of research. But still, the applications of the technology could be broad.
“The concept of utilizing biosensing tattoos offers an attractive alternative for health monitoring in vivo for a range of medical complications, including diabetes, acidosis, alkalosis, electrolyte imbalance, and hypertension,” the researchers write.
As blood sugar levels rise, the ink that senses changes in blood sugar goes from blue to brown.
“Diabetes management involves constantly thinking about the disease, which can lead to a sense of burnout. One of the hardest things about type 1 diabetes is that it is, in a sense, ‘always there’,” Dr. Elvira Isganaitis, a research associate and endocrinologist at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Massachusetts, told Healthline.
“People with diabetes have to adjust their insulin doses every single time they eat, every time they exercise, every time they have a cold or a fever,” Isganaitis explained. “If they don’t account for these factors in the right way, they may have dramatic shifts in their blood glucose levels, and both high and low levels are potentially dangerous and associated with uncomfortable symptoms.”
30 million people of all ages have diabetes in the United Stated and that’s about 9 per cent of the population. From those, 7 million people are not diagnosed.
The most recent data available, in 2012, says that the total direct and indirect cost of diagnosed diabetes in the U.S was over $245 billion.
Also it is very time consuming doing tests all the time since people that live with diabetes have to measure their blood glucose levels by using a sharp lancing device to prick their finger and then take small drops of blood. Isganaitis say that people with type 1 diabetes check out their blood glucose levels 4-10 times a day.
The ones with type 2 diabetes may only check them once or twice per day but the ones treated with insulin still need to have it checked more often.
“CGM doesn’t completely eliminate the need for finger-stick blood glucose checking since the devices still need to be calibrated against blood glucose levels, but they have allowed some patients to cut back on their finger sticks without deterioration in their blood glucose control,” Isganaitis said.
Dr. Alvin C. Powers, president of medicine and science at the American Diabetes Association and director of the Vanderbilt Diabetes Center, said “the possibility of using tattoos in the future to monitor blood sugar levels is a promising step.”
“We need simple, easy, and accurate ways to measure the blood glucose,” Powers told Healthline. “Such an approach would be useful in many individuals with diabetes, and especially children. Hopefully, these new technologies will allow people with diabetes to measure their blood with greater ease, convenience, and simplicity.”
The Dermal Abyss project might be a long way from clinical use.
“Challenges such as robustness, biocompatibility, permanence, and reversibility must be addressed before animal or human subject trials,” the researchers reported.
“The results of our study show that this approach is promising and offers a novel direction for further biotechnology development,” the researchers said.
Susan Babey, PhD, is a senior research scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Health Policy Research. She said that “although clinical use of tattoos that measure blood glucose levels may be far in the future, the potential benefit for people with diabetes is significant.”
“Any technology that facilitates glucose monitoring and provides more options for people with diabetes is helpful,” Babey told Healthline. “This increases the chances that more patients will find a monitoring method with which they are comfortable and that makes it more likely that they will regularly monitor blood glucose levels.”
This project is truly a hope for the future.