3D Printed "Living" Tattoo Could be Next-Gen Wearable Device

3D Printed

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers have created a new ink from genetically programmed living cells. While many engineers are experimenting with a variety of responsive materials the MIT team wondered if live cells could be co-opted into a functional use.

The team used the ink to print a 3D layered structure onto a transparent elastomer patch.

The researchers designed the tattoo to make it more tree-like, with each section of the tree's branches containing bacteria sensitive to certain types of chemicals.

Over several hours, branches of the patch's tree lit up when bacteria sensed their corresponding chemical stimuli.

"We found this new ink formula works very well and can print at a high resolution of about 30 micrometers per feature. We can also print relatively large-scale structures, measuring several centimeters", he said. While right now that means they light up when they come in contact with particular molecular compounds, there are exciting potential applications: the tattoos could be designed so that they respond to environmental pollutants or changes in temperature.

The MIT team chose to revisit the concept using bacterial cells instead because they are hardier and able to survive relatively harsh conditions.

The living tattoo itself was produced using a 3D printer custom-made for the bioprinting application.

Here's how it works: First the bacterial cells are programmed to respond to different compounds. "You need the ink to flow out of a nozzle like toothpaste, and it can maintain its shape after it's printed".

Yuk says their technology could be developed further to, one day, build "living computers" made up of different types of bacteria cells that communicate with each other by passing signals back and forth - "much like transistors on a microchip". Again, unlike mammalian cells, bacteria are compatible with most hydrogels - mixes of water and some polymer. To test this system, scientists printed a thin sheet of hydrogel filaments with input (signal-producing) bacteria and chemicals, and overlaid that with another layer of filaments of output (signal-receiving) bacteria.

The new tattoo goes beyond conventional smart devices and uses genetically modified bacterial cells to serve as a living sensor. The output filaments only lit up when they overlapped with the input layer and received a signal from them. This breakthrough opens the door to living tattoos that are able to monitor for different chemicals when worn.

Authors of the study include Xinyue Liu, Hyunwoo Yuk, Shaoting Lin, German Alberto Parada, Tzu-Chieh Tang, Eléonore Tham, Cesar de la Fuente-Nunez, Timothy K. Lu and Xuanhe Zhao. They're also looking into creating drug capsules and surgical implants containing cells engineered to produce compounds such as glucose, which could be released over time. "As long as the fabrication method and approach are viable, applications such as implants and ingestibles should be possible".

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at or share your thoughts below.

Like this


07 December 2017
Miss Universe 2017 victor is in Manila
Nel-Peters won the Miss Universe title last month in Las Vegas, succeeding Mittenaere, who won the crown here in the Philippines. Later on Wednesday, the most lovely women of the universe proceeded to Resorts World Manila for a press conference.

07 December 2017
Pentagon Acknowledges 2000 Troops in Syria
USA forces will also be on hand to help stabilize areas liberated from the Islamic State. Manning said the delay was in an effort to "get it right".

07 December 2017
Mohawk Industries, Inc. (MHK) Stake Boosted by Ameriprise Financial Inc
The company reported $3.75 EPS for the quarter, topping the Thomson Reuters' consensus estimate of $3.74 by $0.01. Glenview Management Ltd Liability reported 0.66% of its portfolio in Mohawk Industries, Inc. (NYSE:MHK).

07 December 2017
Call of Duty: WWII Winter Siege Trailer Released
The Gewehr 43, Sten, GMPG, a pickax, and new knife are being added to the game, but won't be locked behind Supply Drops. Sledgehammer Games will be celebrating the holidays by hosting the first Call of Duty: WWII community event.

07 December 2017
British govt should apologise for Jallianwala tragedy: London Mayor
He paid obeisance at the Golden temple and also participated in cooking langar in the community kitchen. In 1997, the Queen laid a wreath at Jallianwala Bagh during a tour of India.

07 December 2017
Jordan Peele Is Producing a Reboot of 'The Twilight Zone'
The new series is set up with CBS Television Studios, Jordan Peele's Monkeypaw Productions, and Simon Kinberg's Genre Films. The original Twilight Zone , created by Rod Serling , ran from 1959 to 1964 and its reruns are still a cable TV mainstay.

06 December 2017
Barclays Initiates Coverage on Delphi Automotive (DLPH)
The auto parts company reported $1.66 EPS for the quarter, topping the Thomson Reuters' consensus estimate of $1.56 by $0.10. The Company's segments include Electrical/Electronic Architecture, Powertrain Systems, and Electronics and Safety.

06 December 2017
Is Canadian Pacific Railway Limited (NYSE:CP) a Long Term Growth Play?
Clark Estates Inc increased Mallinckrodt Pub Ltd Co (NYSE:MNK) stake by 20,000 shares to 62,000 valued at $2.78 million in 2017Q2. The stock of Canadian Pacific Railway Limited (NYSE:CP) earned "Hold" rating by Topeka Capital Markets on Thursday, March 24.

06 December 2017
How Many Michael Kors Holdings Limited (NYSE:KORS)'s Analysts Are Bullish?
It has underperformed by 27.24% the S&P500.The move comes after 9 months positive chart setup for the $9.11 billion company. Trexquant Investment LP's holdings in Michael Kors were worth $1,299,000 at the end of the most recent reporting period.

06 December 2017
Little Foot skeleton revealed
While the discovery happened in 1997, the excavation, cleaning, reconstruction, casting and analysis would take 20 years. The Sterkfontein cave system became famous in the 1930s with the discovery of an adult Australopithecus africanus.