Tattoos as health sensors: When health and fashion intertwine!

A group of researchers from MIT in collaboration with Harvard Medical School created the DermalAbyss project. This project successfully developed different tattoo inks that can change colour  according to pH, sugar or sodium levels in the body.

The aim of this project is to create an ink-based “interactive display” on the body, thus providing continuous monitoring of certain blood parameters. These tattooes will provide a visual indication of the status of certain blood parameters within the body by changing colours which correspond to relevant levels.

Four biosensors have been developed so far which cover three different blood parameters; pH, sugar and sodium levels.

The spectrum of colours of the pH sensor ranges between pink and purple, while the sugar level sensor changes between brown and blue. A second pH sensor and the sodium sensor would fluoresce under UV light.

The experiments with the ink as tattoos on pig skin shows promising results thus far.

Although it is only currently in its testing phase, this project has immense potential applications in the medical field.

Diabetic patients who do daily finger-pricking blood sugar tests may be  able to replace this chore with a one-off tattoo that continuously monitors sugar levels. Furthermore, recurring costs of purchasing needles and test strips may be reduced to a single payment for the tattoo.

The researchers said that “in the same way that the wearables industry is integrating fashion practices into its development, we envisage participation between the biotech industries and skincare professionals, such as prosthesis experts and tattooists, in order to embrace the idea of human device symbiosis.”

On top of being practical, it can also be very fashionable.

Although there are currently no plans to develop Dermal Abyss as a product or to pursue clinical trials, this is no doubt a glimpse into the future of what technology can bring to us!

Also, check out the video on their project here!

DermalAbyss: Possibilities of Biosensors as a Tattooed Interface from Fluid Interfaces on Vimeo.


  1. MIT Media Lab. (2017). Project Overview ‹ DermalAbyss: Possibilities of Biosensors as a Tattooed Interface – MIT Media Lab. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Aug. 2017].


Pou Wee Gan
Pou Wee Gan

M.Pharm, MBBS, BCPS, R.Ph

A pharmacist first, then a medical doctor. An avid tea drinker and an occasional poet.

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