For some people, staying healthy could require getting some ink.
Researchers at MIT created a new type of tattoo designed for folks living with diabetes.
Once injected, the nanoparticle ink can consistently measure glucose levels in the bloodstream, alerting patients if their blood sugar levels fall outside the normal range.
The tattoos are a huge advance in glucose-level monitoring. Typically, diabetics need to prick their fingers several times a day in order to monitor blood sugar levels. Not only is this method a nuisance, it’s not entirely effective: By not consistently tracking glucose, diabetics can miss the moment when blood sugar levels start to change, like after eating. While some constant monitors exist, they’re not approved for long-term use.
To create the blood sugar-reading ink, scientists used nanotubes wrapped in a glucose-sensitive polymer. After the ink is injected beneath the surface of the skin, the nano-ink seeks out glucose and fluoresces when it detects it. A separate device kind of like a wristwatch provides near-infrared to read the fluorescing (kind of like a secret decoder ring), and allows users to track rising and falling glucose levels.
While all this is pretty fascinating, it gets better: Wearers aren’t stuck with the same tattoo for life. The nano-ink starts to disappear after about six months, when patients will need to be re-injected with the ink.