Still art or already medicine?
Tattoos are a form of modern body decoration that express about the personality of the person wearing them. For example, they are often an expression of preferences or interests. In the near future, tattoos could even provide insight into the wearer’s biochemistry, potentially providing medical support. Biosensor tattoos are a form of diagnostic tool that can be used to measure certain physical conditions or changes.
Ink with potential
The tattoo is applied with bio sensitive ink. It changes color as soon as the conditions in the body change. The bio-ink consists of chemical reagents or enzyme solutions that are permanently placed in the dermis, just like a normal tattoo. In this area of the skin, the bio-ink reacts with the interstitial fluid. It is based on the composition of the blood and therefore provides an estimate of the actual concentration of physiological molecules. The measurement is carried out very simply by using a smartphone. To do so, the tattoo is scanned and quantitatively evaluated using the cell phone camera and an APP.
Depending on the bio-ink used, pH, glucose or albumin concentrations can be measured, for example. Here, glucose measurement would be relevant for diabetics, who would then not have to prick themselves every time to monitor their blood glucose levels. The change in pH can provide information about the acid-base status of the body and play an important role in the diagnosis of certain metabolic diseases, while the change in albumin concentration can provide information about liver or kidney function. In addition, applications in the lifestyle sector would also be conceivable. For example, an elevated sodium concentration may indicate that an athlete is dehydrated.
And what about the future?
Further applications for this type of tattoo are imaginable. Development is still in its infancy; so far, experiments have been carried out in samples of dead skin. Evidence would first have to demonstrate that it also works in intact skin. If this method is successful, it could revolutionize the way diagnostic monitoring is done today. This may also encourage people opposed to tattoos to get “under the needle” more often. The skin represents the largest organ of the human and it is becoming clear that more and more efforts are focused on making this organ more usable for medical purposes. This is also of central importance to LTS, because here the skin is the focus of attention every day. You can learn more about this here.
Image: LTS Lohmann Therapie-Systeme AG