UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) – Over time, tattoos could be not only decorative or symbolic designs, but also biochemical “devices” that can alert us to health problems, including cancer.
In a new study , Swiss researchers developed a “biomedical tattoo” to detect four types of cancer at an early stage. Implanted under the skin, this sensor changes color and appears on the skin of laboratory mice as soon as the level of calcium in their blood increases.
This “tattoo”, which also has no ink, is composed of cells injected under the skin that have on their surface receptors to capture calcium. When calcium is fixed in hypercalcemia, it triggers the production of melanin, the pigment that makes the skin darker.
The tattoo thus alerts the wearer that it is time to make an appointment with his doctor.
The researchers tested their prototype on mice with cancerous tumors causing hypercalcemia or tumors that do not influence the level of calcium in the blood. As expected, the tattooing mechanisms only started in case of hypercalcemia.
During the 38 days of the experiment, no other symptom of the disease occurred, but the dark mark gave the alert.
This tattoo can become an effective diagnostic tool, since hypercalcemia is a sign of several diseases, including certain types of cancer . And detecting the presence of these tumors in time would not only save lives, but also avoid long and expensive therapies, say scientists.