Researchers are developing smart ink for tattoos that would do much more than look cool. The tattoos have the potential to help doctors diagnose diseases or alert patients to changes in their health, KCNC-TV reported.
What are the details?
Carson Bruns and a team of scientists at the University of Colorado are working on what they call "tech tattoos."
"When you think about what a tattoo is, it's just a bunch of particles that sit in your skin," Bruns said at the TEDxMileHigh: Reset event in Denver earlier this month, according to CU Boulder Today. "Our thought is: What if we use nanotechnology to give these particles some function?"
Bruns, who is a chemist and an assistant professor at the university's Atlas Institute, told KCNC that a UV sensitive ink is "the furthest along right now."
The sun protection tattoos contain color-changing ink that can warn a person about their exposure to harmful UV rays.
"The tattoo ink acts like a real-time indicator of your skin's UV exposure," Bruns explained to KCNC. "So, if you see your tattoo, it basically means that you're overexposed to sunlight and you need to wear sunscreen. If you put sunscreen on, it'll disappear and you'll know you're safe."
"I call them solar freckles because they're like invisible freckles that are powered by sunshine," he added.
The inks are currently being tested on pigskins, but Bruns admitted that he has inked himself despite the incompletion of the inks' safety tests.
"That's our biggest concern right now is making sure that we're not poisoning anybody with these tattoos," he said.
Bruns hopes that the UV sensitive ink is only the beginning of greater developments that could help patients and their doctors.
"We'd love to make a tattoo ink that can detect your blood sugar levels or your blood alcohol content," he said.
When will the tech tattoos be available?
It could be years before the ink is available for testing on humans and ultimately available to the public, Bruns said.
But he's confident that the tattoos will one day be able to help people live healthier lives.
"They're going to enable people to be healthier and more self-expressive," he said.