Over the centuries and across the world people have “marked” themselves with illustrations in rites of passage, fertility rituals, signs of bravery and of love. Some were born into tattooing cultures, some have achieved an admiration for tattoos and others, such as prisoners have had tattoos forced upon them. Though body illustration is common to the world’s indigenous cultures, it was Captain Cook’s sailors who popularized the practice and the word from their adventures in Tahiti. While tattoo artists and customers have their admirers and detractors, America’s 23 million diabetics may one day embrace tattooing as the next diagnostic tool.
Researchers at MIT are working on an ink that could be applied to the skin to measure glucose levels. The highly technological process involves carbon nano-tube sensors which would be wrapped in a polymer that can detect glucose concentrations by measuring fluorescence when an infrared light is pointed at it. Though it all sounds rather complex, the point is that the scientists would work up an ink formula and the necessary accoutrements for monitoring glucose levels, while tattoo artists would use the ink in the processing of tattooing diabetics. While this would stop the multiple, daily finger-sticking routines of diabetics, it isn’t known if this would lead health insurers to cover tattoos as a medical necessity.
The world of diabetes gets even more interesting however. While diabetes treatment is thought to cost about $174 billion in a given year, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a drag on the economy. Scientists are harnessing the power of glucose to generate electrical power. By inserting certain enzymes into graphite discs French scientists have created a type of fuel cell that was implanted into rats to generate power. It’s not quite ready for its close up, but one imagines the day when diabetics could be sought after for their power, so to speak. – Hey honey, can I hook you up to the car?
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