A Tattoo To Monitor Blood Sugar Levels May Not Be Far Off


Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are developing a new continuous glucose monitoring technology that will allow those with Type 1 diabetes check blood sugar levels using a glucose “tattoo.” The device has the potential to free people with diabetes from having to perform numerous finger pricks each day.

The glucose tattoo is made from a fluorescent nanoparticle ink injected under the skin that will reflect infrared light in response to glucose through the skin to a watch-sized monitor worn over the skin. The tattoo itself would only be a few millimeters in size and would not go as deep as a regular tattoo. The ink would likely last about six months before needing to be refreshed.

The nano ink particles are tiny spheres that consist of three parts: the glucose detecting molecule, a color-changing dye, and another molecule that mimics glucose. The three parts continuously move and when they approach the surface, the glucose detecting molecule either grabs a molecule of glucose or the mimicking molecule. If glucose levels are at a health level, the color is orange. If the detecting molecule mostly latches onto glucose (glucose levels too high) the ink appears yellow. If glucose levels are low, the ink turns purple.


The device is currently being tested in animals, and they do not yet know what side effects or allergic reactions might occur. “We are proceeding in a cautious way,” says senior researcher Michael Strano, an associate professor of chemical engineering at MIT. They are likely years away from human trials.

Another question is whether glucose levels in the skin would accurately reflect blood glucose levels. Some studies have shown that skin glucose levels can lag up to 20 minutes behind blood glucose levels. A current wearable glucose detection device, which works via an injection of an enzyme called glucose oxidase and an electrode placed on the skin is only approved for use for seven days at a time, is still not as accurate as finger-prick tests and must be recalibrated once or twice a day.

According to data from the CDC, 21.6 million people in the United States have diabetes. Approximately 5 to 10% of those cases are type 1, also called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). People with type 1 diabetes do not make the hormone insulin that regulates blood sugar, so they must have insulin delivered by injection or a pump. To maintain normal glucose levels, patients must check blood sugar several times a day.

“Diabetes is an enormous problem, global in scope, and despite decades of engineering advances, our ability to accurately measure glucose in the human body still remains quite primitive,” says Strano. “It is a life-and-death issue for a growing number of people.”

MIT News
May 27, 2010



Love this!!! I worry about young kids, older individuals, lazy one who don't check, those who can't afford their strips ..... All sorts.. And busy Moms!!!!
I am a type 1 diabetic. I don't think this would work. You see, when we run a high blood sugar...we need to know exactly how high it is in order to take the amount of insulin to correct it. It doesn't help us to just say "high" or "low"...we need more specific readings. Still, nice idea.
true, but you could at least know if it is high or low and need to make an adjustment.
Yes an actual reading would be needed for an adjustment, but it said it had a monitor as well, also it would be great for those of us who don't feel lows. Even with the current cgms systems you are supposed to do a finger stick before an adjustment. And as of right now cgms units are not exactly comfortable to put in and are very costly and many insurances do not cover them.
I am a Type 2 Diabetic & just started insulin injections, I also owner a tattoo studio & am VERY interested in this new type of possible testing, if there is anything I can do as a diabetic and/or tattoo operator to help with this testing to speed the technology up I would GLADLY to anything and everything possible to help. Contact: Candice Cartwright email :[email protected] shop Artistry in Motion PO Box 115 North Vernon, IN 47265 (812) 346-0057 cell (812) 592-6467
do you have a web site for your shop so I can see some of your work Im just a reader like you on this issue
I am type 1 and think this would be brilliant as an indication of when sugar levels are high or low. Although it doesn't give an accurate reading it would give a warning then you could just do a quick test to get your accurate level. I would definately give it a go.
i think this is a brilliant idea my son is type 1 and fingerpricks can become painful when done as much as he has to do it there for depressing this idea of the tattoo would stop parents worrying so much about putting there child threw pain of fingerpricks and help the person with type 1 reduce the pain time and embaracement they go threw with the finger prick it will also help them at school and when on thier own get them help faster if people knew what the colours mean this is an amazing idea it will be great to see how the trial works out hopefully its a new lease on life for type 1 diabetics
Where do I sign up?! I am a type 1 and am always looking for the next best thing. I know they will never cure diabetes, it is a pharmaceutical cash cow. However, I am always in need of a better way of controling my diabetes while still carrying on as normal of a life as possible. So here is hoping for another advancement!!!!
Sign me up ................ Id try anything to stop the use of finger pricks and using a needle to inject insulin..........................
That's a brilliant idea,where can i sign up for it!!! Sooner people like urself comes out with it the better, fingers crossed.
Sign me up... I'm ready to move into the future and not have to poke my finger all the time.
I hope the trials and practice of this is closer than they are estimating. I'd rather this than pricking my finger four to five times a day or wearing another of those continuous monnitering systems. Something like this would be such a relief for type 1 diabetics like myself. I also wonder about costs of such a development considering one month supply to blood testing strips averages 75 to 100 a month.
I read and like the idea of a Tatoo that helps mesure your Gloucose readings I am a type 1 and willing to be test subgect to help with these .
How amazing! To witness your blood sugar changing by seeing different colors - there's so many 'plusses' to being able to have that technology! I wonder what the pricing would be. Right now my test strips cost $85 for 100 strips! I could only hope the tattoo would be less per month!
My strips use to cost that much as well but them I started ordering them through the mail order part of my insurance. It literally cut my bill in half.
I would let you use me as a trial right now.Will sign waiver and all.I think this would be a benefit to all of us that are diabetic with very busy lifestyles.
this would be great for me, as long as it doesn't cost to much, but with mit in the works it will be out of our hands and the insurance then wont cover it
Sign me up!! I'll be their lab rat.
This would be wonderful and if you need anyone to test it on I volunteer!!!!! I have Type 1, wear and insulin pump and a glucose sensor.
Me too! Sign me up yesterday!
yes love to have a tattoo to check blood sugar im have type 1 diabeters a tattoo would be good...
Sign me up, love tatts and hate diabetes!
If my signing a waiver for human trials will help future generations get the glucose detection faster then where is the pen, This would help thousands of people.
Me too! The potential to save lives here is great.
I don't have diabetes but my 10 year old is a type 1 and my mother and little brother are type 2. I'd be more than happy and willing to have the ink tested on me for any side affects or irritation.
I have recently been diagnosed with Diabetes and I am very willing to test your Tattoo moritor.
I would love to get the tattoo done as im so sick of prickin my fingers all the time and im a type 1 . so sign me up anyday for a test run would save me alot of time and money in the long run but i do hope one day they do find a cure for all the people in the world that has type 1 god bless us all
Agreed... Anything to make it a little easier. It is crazy the things these people come up with. I hope there are much more innovations.
I've basically quit finger testing. I can just stop and think about it and pretty well guess within 5 points of what the meter will show. Don't know how I do it but most of the time it works.