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



What a brilliant idea, I would definatley give that a go
Where do I sign up?? I am Type 1, tired of the finger pricks and love me some more tattoo's even though its not the same :)
I would try this tattoo in a heart beat i hate to poke my fingers 3 times a day I am a type 2 diabetic sign me up
i so would do this... sign me up!!!
Type 1, 55 years old, sign me up! I have been pumping since 1997 and I'll be delighted to keep on leading the way!
I would be a test subject for this tattoo in a heart beat. My fingers have been stabbed enough after 24 years of being diabetic!
why do you use your fingers ouch! i learned 39 years ago at joslin clinic camp to use you bottom earlobe it has worked for me and painless. try it you have nothing to loose except pain good luck!
Thank you I have a child who is diabetic. Goin to see if he likes it. Thanks
I've heard of lots of places, but never my earlobe! Truthfully it doesn't hurt to prick my fingers, I do however hate the way they look and feel. I'll have to give my earlobe a try. Thanks for the advice.
I have been using my fingers and learned that lotion keeps them looking good. I use lotion 3-6 times a day and after 2 days my fingers are healed up. Be sure to pick a lotion with vitamin E.
My husband has been diabetic since he was 19 - and he probably wouldn't mind at all being a guinea pig for something like this.
I thought this was pretty cool until I read the part about it being tested on animals. I feel we have no right subjecting animals to cruel experiments on their bodies, that often can't be compared to humans. Sounds like there are plenty of people more than willing to participate in a trial. In that case, I'm all for it. I don't have a problem testing on my fingers but some people might find this a great option.
I feel the same ways jeannine. Bless you. :)
Really? Think of the children that have type 1 and 2, They have to be monitored and the parents can't be there at school this would definitely benefit them. If you don't want it that is fine, but think of people too. The benefit outweighs everything. Go hug a tree if you want to feel better. Give me a break.
Here's a thought..... tattoo could also double as an I.D. bracelet.
I get the whole not testing on animals, but is a human life less valuable? And if they need human guinea pigs, sign me up!
Sign me up too. T1 diagnosed at 40. I will be 50 in June. You can't make it any worse and may make it better. I will sign hold harmless.
i agree! pretty much everything we have today is because it started with animal testing. i don't agree with testing on animals for things like makeup, but if it helps people medically I think it's a different story.
I think the idea is useful im type one and im eighteen but often it gets complicated keeping up with checking sugar