Diabetes is a serious disease which affects millions of people all over the world. It happens when you have high blood sugar levels because your body can’t use the sugar (or glucose) you have in your system properly.
According to a report released by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July 2017, more than 100 million Americans are suffering from diabetes, or are on their path to having diabetes.
There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes, wherein your body is unable to produce insulin, Type 2 diabetes, where your body can create insulin, but the insulin production may decrease over time, and gestational diabetes — which ordinarily affects pregnant women.
People with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes need to monitor their blood sugar levels constantly in order to prevent any problems or complications that may happen if their glucose levels get too high or become too low.
Thanks to the efforts exerted by four MIT researchers namely Nick Barry, Xin Liu, Viirj Kan, and Katie Vega, as well as researchers from Harvard Medical School Nan Jiang and Ali Yetisen, monitoring of blood sugar levels can be easier — and not to mention, much more hip.
These bright minds came up with the idea of creating tattoos that would change colors according to a person’s blood sugar levels.
This project of using a specialized ink to produce biosensing tattoo that would react to a person’s changes in sugar, pH, and sodium levels is called DermalAbyss.
The tattoo will change from color purple to pink if there are changes in the pH levels and would change from blue to brown if there’s an increase in the sugar levels in the blood.
If made available to the public, this groundbreaking creation could be life changing to people who have diabetes who consistently need to monitor their body’s glucose levels.
At present, most still use the usual method in determining their glucose levels: by pricking their fingers, using a test strip, and putting the strip into a glucose meter. Others, though, have opted to use the rather expensive Flash Glucose Monitoring systems where a device is attached to one’s skin that will help determine the body’s sugar levels.
Finger pricking can be painful and a lot of work, while glucose monitoring devices are costly. In comparison to these monitoring methods we currently have, tattoos are definitely more convenient.
The biosensing tattoos were tried on pig skin, which shares many similarities with human skin — and it worked!
DermalAbyss project was introduced in June 2017. At the time, it was stated that there was no intent of making it available to the public as it was simply a research project. As of now, there are still no updates whether DermalAbyss would be made for sale to the general population.
In the publication of Katia Vega and Xin Liu about the DermalAbyss project, they have stated some of the limitations of the biosensing tattoos, such as the range of colors and intensities of the biosensors needing to be extended, the need to test the project’s possibility of being toxic or harmful to humans, and the need for further research to find out if the biosensors would eventually spread out into the tissues.