Variations of bio-active inks can detect other molecules released by the body. (Credit: Tufts)

Researchers have developed biomaterial-based inks that respond to and quantify chemicals released from the body (e.g., in sweat and potentially other biofluids) or in the surrounding environment by changing color. The inks can be screen printed onto textiles such as clothes, shoes, or even face masks in complex patterns and at high resolution, providing a detailed map of human response or exposure.

The advance in wearable sensing could simultaneously detect and quantify a wide range of biological conditions, molecules and, possibly, pathogens over the surface of the body using conventional garments and uniforms.

The soluble silk substrate in these ink formulations can be modified by embedding various “reporter” molecules — such as pH sensitive indicators, or enzymes like lactate oxidase to indicate levels of lactate in sweat. The former could be an indicator of skin health or dehydration, while the latter could indicate levels of fatigue of the wearer. Many other derivatives of the inks can be created due to the versatility of the silk fibroin protein by modifying it with active molecules such as chemically sensitive dyes, enzymes, antibodies and more.

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