Those managing diabetes could be free from puncturing their fingertips to monitor glucose levels with an epidermal device.

Temporary tattoos are for more than just kids’ slumber parties and Halloween costumes. With help from a few electrodes, a group of researchers have designed a removable tattoo for those with diabetes to help manage blood sugar levels.

Hoping that a pain free option for testing glucose concentration — unless, of course, the results require a shot of insulin — would encourage diabetics to more thoroughly regulate their condition, graduate student Amay Bandodkar and his colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, set to work printing electrodes on tattoo paper. A mild electrical current connects the sensor to the skin for 10 minutes. During this process, glucose-containing sodium ions in the skin migrate toward the tattoo. The sensor is able to accurately measure glucose levels through the strength of the electrical charge, ScienceAlert reports

Photo courtesy of Jacobs School of Engineering/University of California, San Diego

Photo courtesy of Jacobs School of Engineering/University of California, San Diego

Okay, so it’s not as simple as applying a fake butterfly tattoo to your forearm with warm water and peeling away the soggy paper. But of the seven trial members who tested out the product, none reported any pain or discomfort from the sensor other than a little tingling during the initial application. 

Right now, the tattoos are still in their earliest stages of testing and still missing one essential aspect: the numerical read-out of glucose levels that let a diabetic know whether their blood sugar is at a safe level. Luckily, engineers at the Center for Wearable Sensors are already on the ball. The readout device will connect to the tattoo by way of Bluetooth technology, according to yesterday’s press release.

The tattoos could be a big money saver too. Diabetics test their glucose levels with one-time use paper or plastic strips anywhere from twice to eight times each day. The tattoo easily last for an entire day with a low cost of only a few cents per tattoo.

Plus, they don’t look half bad either. 

Top photo courtesy of Jacobs School of Engineering/University of California, San Diego