Tattoo Body Modification Gets Futuristically Functional

Illustration for article titled Tattoo Body Modification Gets Futuristically Functional

One day, in the not so distant future because it's actually being used in a testing environment today, people will use invisible nano-tattoos to give doctors an instant snapshot of their body's inner workings.

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The prototype, developed by Heather Clark of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Northeastern University, consists of a special nanoparticle solution injected into the skin. Once "installed," the solution can be scanned by a specially modified iPhone (pictured), which makes the solution fluoresce:

Once in the skin, the sensor molecules attract their target because they have the opposite charge. Once the target chemical is taken up, the sensor is forced to release ions in order to maintain an overall neutral charge, and this changes the fluorescence of the tattoo when it is hit by light. The more target molecules there are in the patient's body, the more the molecules will bind to the sensors, and the more the fluorescence changes.

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How is this helpful? Well, for example, an anemic patient could track their blood oxygen levels based on how the particles are glowing and reacting with substances in their body. On the sports side of things, an athlete could scan their arm mid-game and quickly check whether or not their sodium levels are low to prevent dehydration. Lastly, diabetes patients, always on the lookout for less invasive glucose monitoring methods, could use the technology in lieu of a finger prick.

Clark also believes the test can be easily modified to encompass all manner of biomarkers. Some may quiver a bit at the invasiveness or Gattaca-ness of it all, but I just see convenience. Anything can be abused. This technology has real value. [Technology Review]

You can keep up with Jack Loftus, the author of this post, on Twitter and Facebook.

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DISCUSSION

So what else can I put in there? A barcode?

A practical use I can see with that is if I wind up killed in a completely horrific way and they cannot identify me, they can just scan me with their iPhone and have all my information?

How about a whole operating system? Can I scan my arm to check the weather or the time? What if I want to play Pac-Man, can it do that too? Why wouldn't I just use my iPhone for that? But it would be kinda cool to watch YouTube in there.

Sorry, I'm just thinking of awesome ways this can be used.