Acquired Electronics360

Medical Devices and Healthcare IT

Biosensor Tattoo Combines Artistry and Health Monitoring

16 June 2017

Could a tattoo tell the wearer when something is amiss with his or her health? A research team from MIT and the Harvard Medical School set up a proof-of-concept project to explore this idea.

Their project, DermalAbyss, examined four biosensors—pH, glucose, sodium, and an additional pH sensor-- that change colors in response to detecting three pieces of information carried in body fluids. They tested the tattoo on pigskin, demonstrating that the biosensor material does change color as expected.

The research team singled out diabetics as a large potential user group for a biosensor tattoo. Rather than pricking their skin for a drop of blood to test, a glance at a tattoo would provide the same information without the pain. If the tattoo changes color from blue to brown, the person’s blood sugar is elevated.

The MIT/Harvard researchers laid out questions for future researchers to address, including extending the range of biosensor colors and intensitie, evaluating biosensor safety and toxicity, and determining the lifespan of the tattoo “ink.”

Although there are no plans to turn DermalAbyss into a commercial product, the researchers hope that the preliminary research will inspire other scientists to push the work further.

The DermalAbyss work follows in the path of the MIT researchers who in 2016 introduced DuoSkin, a gold-leaf tattoo that reacts to touch, displays output, and communicates wirelessly. The fashionable skin decorations won the “Sci-Fi No Longer” award from South by Southwest in 2017.

Powered by CR4, the Engineering Community

Discussion – 0 comments

By posting a comment you confirm that you have read and accept our Posting Rules and Terms of Use.
Engineering Newsletter Signup
Get the Engineering360
Stay up to date on:
Features the top stories, latest news, charts, insights and more on the end-to-end electronics value chain.
Weekly Newsletter
Get news, research, and analysis
on the Electronics industry in your
inbox every week - for FREE
Sign up for our FREE eNewsletter


Date Event Location
12-16 Aug 2018 Vancouver, Canada
11-13 Sep 2018 Novi, Michigan
27 Sep 2018 The Reef, Los Angeles
26 Oct 2018 Old Billingsgate
04-06 Dec 2018 Orlando, FL
Find Free Electronics Datasheets