Japanese Scientists Develop Quick and Painless Tattoos for Pet Identification

14 January 2024

Microneedle patches offer a non-invasive alternative to traditional pet identification methods

Losing a beloved pet can be a heart-wrenching experience, but with current pet identification methods such as tags and microchips, there is always a risk of them getting lost or becoming ineffective. In a bid to address this issue, Japanese scientists from The University of Tokyo have developed a new method of pet identification using quick and painless tattoos. By utilizing microneedle patches, researchers hope to provide a more reliable and permanent solution for identifying pets, livestock, and even tracking wildlife.

Microneedle patches: A breakthrough in pet identification

Microneedle patches have gained attention in the medical field as a non-invasive means of delivering medication. These patches consist of a small, flat piece of material with tiny, sharp, medication-filled studs known as microneedles on the underside. When pressed against the skin, the microneedles dissolve harmlessly, releasing the medication into the interstitial fluid between skin cells. The University of Tokyo scientists saw the potential of this technology in the realm of pet identification.

Hyaluronic acid and tattoo ink: The perfect combination

The researchers developed microneedles less than 1 mm in length made of hyaluronic acid, a substance naturally occurring in the body. These microneedles were loaded with nontoxic black tattoo ink. Each patch was carefully designed to form a dot-matrix image of a specific letter or numeral. The combination of hyaluronic acid microneedles and tattoo ink presented a safe and effective way to create permanent tattoos on animals.

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Successful trials on rats

To test the effectiveness of the microneedle patches, the scientists conducted trials on rats. The patches were applied to areas of bare skin, and alphanumeric characters were tattooed onto the rats. After a month, the characters were still clearly visible to the naked eye, indicating the longevity of the tattoos. While further research and longer-term testing are required, these initial results show promise for the future of pet identification.

Beyond pets: Applications in livestock and wildlife tracking

The potential applications of this technology extend beyond pets. Livestock identification is crucial for tracking and managing herds, and the use of microneedle patches could provide a more efficient and reliable method. Additionally, wildlife tracking could benefit from this technology, enabling researchers to monitor and study animals without invasive procedures. The development of microneedle tattoos could revolutionize the field of animal identification and tracking.


The development of quick and painless tattoos using microneedle patches offers a promising solution to the challenges of pet identification. Japanese scientists from The University of Tokyo have successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of this technology in tattooing animals, with potential applications in livestock and wildlife tracking. While further research is needed, the use of microneedle tattoos could provide a more permanent and reliable method of identification, ensuring that lost pets can be reunited with their owners and facilitating better management of livestock and wildlife populations. As technology continues to advance, the possibilities for pet and animal identification are expanding, offering hope for a future with fewer lost companions and improved animal welfare.

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