Tattoos to Help Diabetics Soon

Diabetics everywhere, rejoice! Seems scientists from the Draper Laboratory are working on a semi-permanent tattoo that helps sugar-lovers monitor their glucose levels. The so-called "prescriptive ink" going into the skin is made up of nanoparticles that glow under infrared light. Higher levels mean greater luminescence, as these nano-detectors bond themselves to glucose upon application.

Before you get excited however, the glow becomes visible only under a handheld reader. Right now the application process also provides little room for creativity. Instead of a painful marathon tattoo session, the nano-sensors (each 100 nm across) are applied directly onto the skin in a series of dots. A long hollow needle effectively stains the patient's epidermis, and eventually comes off from regular bathing.

Why is this glowing semi-permanent tattoo good news for diabetics? Anyone needing insulin injections relies on a finger prick test to test their blood sugar levels. Constantly wounding your fingertips—even in the name of health—never feels nice, and the hope is that this technology will make regular those regularly painful tests unnecessary.

The research team is also working on variants that detect other chemicals, specifically potassium, chlorine, and sodium. Or the chemicals that signal dehydration in athletes and soldiers.

Prescription Tattoos: Coming to a Pharmacy Near You