Researchers Are Developing a Tattoo Ink That Lets Diabetics Monitor Blood Sugar Levels

Couple with matching hand tattoos holding hands affectionately.

Researchers Are Developing a Tattoo Ink That Lets Diabetics Monitor Blood Sugar Levels

There have been a lot of stupid inventions in years past. It’s hard to hold faith in the human race when you see things like Shake Weights, Pet Rocks, and Snuggies circulating the market. But every once in a while, someone comes up with something that is so useful and innovative that it restores all hope that had been lost. The most recent of these is a product from a joint Harvard and MIT research team: a specialized ink that could let diabetics check their blood sugar by registering the color of their tattoo.

Diabetes is a disease that has to be regularly monitored—diabetics have to repeatedly check their blood sugar throughout the day to make sure the level isn’t too high. This is usually done with a kit that tests levels based on blood, meaning that diabetics have to prick themselves with a meter throughout the day. These checks are a hardship, and such an inconvenience can lead to negligence.

DermalAbyss Ink is a collaborative project to create a tattoo ink that responds to changes in the interstitial fluid. So far they’ve created three versions, and one of these is able to measure glucose. The sensor in the ink shifts from blue to brown as blood sugar rises. The other two inks developed by researchers monitor pH levels and sodium, which is particularly promising because it means that the ink could be used for medical issues outside of diabetes.

The product is still being tested, and has yet to enter the phase of human testing (all tests have been performed on pig skin). It’ll be awhile before it’s available on the market, despite the overwhelmingly positive response from diabetics. Nonetheless, this is a huge step forward for both the medical and tattoo community. Most importantly, this could be a life-changing invention for diabetics, who would be able to more easily monitor their health, and do so with a personalized body art of their choosing.