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What If Tattoos Gave You Updates about Your Health?
Researchers at MIT and Harvard Medical School have developed a tattoo ink that could potentially be used to monitor medical conditions, with ink that changes in response to physical conditions.
Sorry, Fitbit. We may soon have a battery-free wearable device that monitors your health--a bio-sensing tattoo.
Researchers at MIT and Harvard Medical School recently announced the development of the "Dermal Abyss," a health-monitoring tattoo that can turn your body surface into an interactive display. It is a development that should excite biohackers and transhumanists, but also have potentially large mainstream applications.
By tattooing optical biosensors into the skin, the tattoo can react to changes in your body's interstitial fluid. The Dermal Abyss may solve a major problem: how to create a health-monitoring tool that is easy to wear, bio-compatible, and has access to the relevant bio-markers?
The Need for Better Health Monitoring Tools
As we have seen in the market for wearable devices and other monitoring tools, there is a desire to measure glucose levels, blood pressure, skin temperature, and brain activity. While there are currently silicon-based implantable devices, these would not be considered bio-compatible. The implantable devices lack of smooth integration in one's daily life also discourages its use.
According to the marketing research firm Kalorama Information, the market for health-monitoring wearable devices surpassed $13 billion in 2016. Despite their success, there have been major questions around the the merit of the data being tracked and shown to consumers. Popular wearable devices like Fitbit may give the impression of accuracy, but often do not have direct access to the relevant bio-markers. For example, a 2016 study by Ball State University found that the Fitbit Charge HR often missed heartbeats. In the study, the device had an average heartbeat error of 14 percent.
How Does the Dermal Abyss Work?
The Dermal Abyss works by swapping out the traditional inks of tattoos with bio-sensing inks. These bio-sensing inks alter color in response the the intestinal fluid. As the picture above shows, the pH sensor changes colors for indicators such as glucose, sodium, and fluoresce. While some color changes could be noticed by the naked eye, other color changes would be seen by using a blue light. The Dermal Abyss was developed as a proof of concept, being made on pigskin. In order for a health-monitoring tattoo to be ready for market, more durable inks that do not fade as quickly would need to be developed.
"By featuring tissue cells with interactive properties, the skin can change its color, light intensity, or structure to display information. Hence, the skin cells become a pixel screen to be decoded by the user, other viewers, or cameras." -"The Dermal Abyss: Interfacing with the Skin by Tattooing Biosensors"
Will the Dermal Abyss Creep People Out?
While the visual of the tattoo altering color is griping, the possibility of health-monitoring tattoos doesn't create the same level of unease for me that, let's say, microchipping does. Whereas microchipping can cross the "cyborg threshold," and offend the notions of our humanness, the Dermal Abyss builds on the body modification process of tattooing that has been done for thousands of years.
Where you for foresee unease with advances like the Dermal Abyss, however, is in the continued erosion with personal health indicators from something private to something made public. That tends to be our unease with how health-monitoring tools are utilized by empowers--transitioning from a well-intended incentive to be healthy, towards a more worrisome way to discriminate. Our personal health is something that we like to have full control over how--and with who--we share the information. One consideration of the Dermal Abyss is whether the color changes should be noticeable by the naked eye, or be more of an invisible ink where a special light is needed.
“The purpose of the work is to light the imagination of biotechnologists and stimulate public support for such efforts. These questions of how technology impacts our lives must be considered as carefully as the design of the molecular sensors patients may someday carry embedded in their skin.” -Nan Jiang, Harvard Medical School, who worked on the Dermal Abyss (speaking to the Harvard Gazette)
Our skin has always acted as an indicator to our underlying health, with subtle changes to color and temperature. Outside of the medical field, there was always a level of guesswork with the process (i.e. "Are you okay? You look sick today). It would be a whole lot more interesting if a person was literally wearing their health.
Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.
- Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
- As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
- The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
China moves to Russia and India takes over Canada. The Swiss get Bangladesh, the Bangladeshi India. And the U.S.? It stays where it is.
What if the world were rearranged so that the inhabitants of the country with the largest population would move to the country with the largest area? And the second-largest population would migrate to the second-largest country, and so on?
A recent analysis of a 76-million-year-old Centrosaurus apertus fibula confirmed that dinosaurs suffered from cancer, too.
- The fibula was originally discovered in 1989, though at the time scientists believed the damaged bone had been fractured.
- After reanalyzing the bone, and comparing it with fibulas from a human and another dinosaur, a team of scientists confirmed that the dinosaur suffered from the bone cancer osteosarcoma.
- The study shows how modern techniques can help scientists learn about the ancient origins of diseases.
Centrosaurus apertus fibula
Royal Ontario Museum<p>In the recent study, the team used a combination of techniques to analyze the fibula, including taking CT scans, casting the bone and studying thin slices of it under a microscope. The analysis suggested that the dinosaur likely suffered from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that affects modern humans, typically young adults.</p><p>For further evidence, the team compared the damaged fibula to a healthy fibula from a dinosaur of the same species, and also to a fibula that belonged to a 19-year-old human who suffered from osteosarcoma. Both comparisons supported the osteosarcoma diagnosis.</p>
Evans et al.<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The shin bone shows aggressive cancer at an advanced stage," Evans said in a <a href="https://www.rom.on.ca/en/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/rare-malignant-cancer-diagnosed-in-a-dinosaur" target="_blank">press release</a>. "The cancer would have had crippling effects on the individual and made it very vulnerable to the formidable tyrannosaur predators of the time."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The fact that this plant-eating dinosaur lived in a large, protective herd may have allowed it to survive longer than it normally would have with such a devastating disease."</p><p>The fossilized fibula was originally unearthed in a bonebed alongside the remains of dozens of other <em>Centrosaurus </em><em>apertus</em>, suggesting the dinosaur didn't die from cancer, but from a flood that swept it away with its herd.</p>
Dinosaur fibula; the tumor mass is depicted in yellow.
Royal Ontario Museum/McMaster University<p>The new study highlights how modern techniques can help scientists learn more about the evolutionary origins of modern diseases, like cancer. It also shows that dinosaurs suffered through some of the same terrestrial afflictions humans face today.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Dinosaurs can seem like mythical creatures, but they were living, breathing animals that suffered through horrible injuries and diseases," Evans said, "and this discovery certainly makes them more real and helps bring them to life in that respect."</p>
Join the lauded author of Range in conversation with best-selling author and poker pro Maria Konnikova!
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