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This Color-Changing Tattoo Could Be A Lifesaver

Update Date: Jun 09, 2017 09:48 AM EDT

Researchers at MIT and Harvard Medical School have discovered a new way to make life a little bit easier for diabetics with bio-sensing tattoos.

These unusual tattoos consist of a special tattoo ink, DermalAbyss, that contains chemicals that can sense pH levels, blood sugar, and sodium. If these levels fluctuate, the ink will change color alerting the patient with an "interactive display" on the skin. If the person's blood sugar rises, for example, the glucose sensing ink will change from blue to brown.

While this discovery could be life-changing, scientists claim that DermalAbyss ink is still in its "proof-of-concept" stage. But, that hasn't stopped people from contacting MIT Media Lab researcher Xin Liu.

The fact that diabetics "literally stab themselves" several times a day to test their blood glucose levels spurred the idea, leaving researchers to wonder "whether the body itself could express the information, instead of us doing all the machine work," Liu said.

For a diabetic, this tattoo could mean less finger pricking a day, or for those who wear the pricier blood glucose monitoring machines, it could mean swimming and other outdoor activities are back on the table.

"People with diabetes email us and say, 'I want to try it out,'" Liu told CBS News.

According to Liu, the technology is still within an early research stage and has only been tested on non-living pig skin samples.

"It will take a long time for anything practical to go to market, but [the technology] evokes imaginations and opens up possibilities," Liu said.

So far, Liu and her fellow researchers from MIT and Harvard Medical School have developed four biosensors that react to the chemical information in bodily fluid and change color based on the results.

"It's not necessarily telling you data, but giving you a sense of what's changing," in your biochemistry, she said. "So you can behave and change your habits accordingly."

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