Color-Changing Tattoos Can Monitor Health

No need to worry about disappointing your mother by getting a tattoo. Now you have a medical reason to get one. A team of researchers in Germany have come up with a tattoo ink that changes colour in reaction to your body’s glucose and albumin levels.

The tattoos would essentially be dermal sensors for patients suffering from illnesses like diabetes or kidney disease. Currently, monitoring such diseases is done by taking regular blood samples. The tattoos, however, would eliminate those tests by changing colours. The tattoos display your body’s pH level as well as where your glucose and albumin levels are.

Colour changing tattoos

The dyes in the ink turn from yellow to green when in contact with albumin, an indicator of kidney disease. When glucose levels are high, the dyes turn a dark green. The idea is to weave these dyes into regular tattoo designs—no splotches, squares, or bar codes (unless that’s the kind of tattoo you want).

The tattoos have only been tested on pig skin so far, and there are still some challenges to overcome. One challenge facing the future of these tattoos is that only one of the three are reversible. The pH tattoo can shift multiple times, but both the glucose and albumin tattoos are “one and done.” Once they’ve changed colors they stay that way.

There’s also some question about how the dyes would work on different skin colours, or how they will appear in different light conditions. Even with these challenges, the possibility of no longer having to do pinpricks for blood samples is appealing.

It’s also an area that shows potential for tracking other diseases and levels of indicators. Who knows, one day you might go to your doctor’s office for a physical and a new tattoo.

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