Harvard, MIT researchers to develop 'smart tattoo' for glucose monitoring

Jessica Kim Cohen - Print  | 

A team of researchers from Boston-based Harvard Medical School and Cambridge-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing "smart tattoo ink" to monitor health conditions, the Harvard Gazette reports.

The team — led by Katia Vega, a postdoctoral associate at the MIT Media Lab — is in the process of creating biosensitive inks that change color based on the chemistry of an individual's interstitial fluid. For example, the researchers developed ink that changes from green to brown when an individual's glucose concentration rises, which could help diabetic patients monitor their blood sugar.

The goal of the biosensor project, called "Dermal Abyss," is to overcome limitations associated with biomedical monitoring devices, such as short battery life or need for wireless connectivity. While researchers began proof-of-concept testing by tattooing segments of pig skin, additional investigations are needed to refine the product, according to the Harvard Gazette.

"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 in Boston. "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."

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