Nan Jiang, co-researcher and postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School study, said: "The objective of the work is to light the imagination of biotechnologists and stimulate public support for such efforts".
The green ink that is viewable under a blue light grows more intense as sodium concentration increases, which is an indication dehydration.
The study included a collaboration between MIT researchers Katia Vega, Xin Liu, Viirj Kan and Nick Barry, and Harvard Medical researchers Ali Yetisen and Nan Jiang. The tattoo seen in the image was put onto segments of pig skin. They believe the designs could be a less-invasive way to monitor things like hydration in athletes (by checking sodium levels) or blood glucose in diabetics.
Monitoring a person's health can now be perform by a wide array of wearable devices, but more often than not they need to be recharged and connected to a wireless network for data transmission, he said. "And so we came up with the idea that we could incorporate biosensors in the skin". A short battery life paired with the need for wireless connectivity can be an inconvenience.
"We wanted to go beyond what is available through wearables today", Yetisen continued.
Further improvements are needed, say the researchers, such as ensuring the ink does not fade or diffuse, and while the applications for the device are broad, the technology is exciting from a diabetes perspective because it could be incorporated into long-lasting tattoos for chronic conditions.
The team of eight researchers found that by mixing optical biosensors with tattoo ink, they are able to create tattoos (dubbed "dermal abyss" or "d-abyss") that react with the body's own fluids and change color when levels of substances such as sodium and glucose change.
If you're looking to get some ink, a new type of tattoo could help you gauge your health. A mobile app has already been developed that can analyse a picture of a sensor to provide quantitative diagnostic results. Another researcher Nan Jiang adds, "The goal of the work is to light the imagination of biotechnologists and stimulate public support for such efforts".