In Insight, Tech

Color-changing tattoo ink that reacts with your body’s chemistry is the latest in wearable tech. This upgrades the wearable device craze to something that no longer has to be put on your body, but can be embedded into your skin. Blending biotechnology with traditional methods in tattoo artistry monitors health in an advanced yet aesthetically pleasing way.

Who discovered this?

Researcher Katia Vega of MIT Media Lab collaborated with Harvard Medical School to create DermalAbyss. She believes the skin can act as a new kind of interface. Vega is a computer scientist by training and has been researching “beauty technology” for seven years. She combines cosmetics and electronics to create things like smart fake eyelashes, conductive makeup, and RFID-enabled nail polish.

What is it?

DermalAbyss replaces traditional tattoo ink with biosensors that change color in response to variations in interstitial fluid in the skin. The changes occur based on levels of glucose, sodium, or pH in the body. Internal biological processes are connected to external interfaces to convey real-time data. The body’s surface is rendered an interactive display.

Why is it important?

“I wanted to go deeper, not just on the top of your epidermis,” says Vega. The newfound technology changes the landscape of wearables to go beneath the skin, which can prove easier for users and more efficient for healthcare professionals. Diabetics can measure glucose levels, eliminating the need for multiple daily finger pricks. The amount of water in the body can be measured to prevent dehydration, as well as pH levels to indicate general health. DermalAbyss tattoos can provide a way of quick diagnosis for a doctor, and can put users at ease, knowing their health is constantly under measurable control.


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