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Interview: Ali Yetisen

Lead researcher, Technical University Munich

A team at Technical University Munich has come up with technology that can turn tattoos into biomarkers. Lead researcher Ali Yetisen explains his vision of making human skin a diagnostic display…

Published in Fit Tech 2020 issue 1

With everyone now familiar with wearables, researchers at Technical University Munich (TUM), headed by Ali Yetisen, set up a project to envision how they may look in 20 or 30 years time. The 10-strong team has taken wearables to the next level, by using the skin as a diagnostic display to show real time changes in the body’s constitution.

The tattoo uses a dye which changes colour according to changes in the interstitial fluid, which is a surrogate medium for blood. To date, it works with three elements found in the blood: pH levels, glucose and albumin, a type of protein. This means the tattoo could alert a diabetic patient if they were having a blood sugar spike.

“If the glucose levels are high, the tattoo turns green, and if they are too low it becomes yellow,” explains Yetisen. “This could be an effective way of keeping track of health for people with specific health concerns.”

The next phase of research will look at electrolytes to show hydration and dehydration levels; this could be applied in the health and fitness industry, particularly for those taking part in endurance sports.

“Minerals such as sodium, potassium and magnesium are critical in monitoring the body’s hydration status and this could provide a real time measurement,” says Yetisen. “We could also look at lactate and glucose levels and the impact of fructose and caffeine.

“The third phase of our research will look at hormone levels – testosterone, adrenalin, cortisol, all of the stress biomarkers, which can identify fatigue and exhaustion. The opportunities are endless, it is a new concept which no one has really explored.”

Going forward
One of the challenges of the research was to find the exact viscosity of the dye to prevent diffusion of the tattoo. To do this, the team practised on pig skin, as this is similar to human skin. Long term they plan to develop bioluminescent sensors, which will make the skin glow, to replace the dyes.

It is too early to say whether or not this technology will be embraced by the medical community, as there needs to be more testing on its safety.

“We need to test the cytotoxicity and any reaction, but as the tattoos are based on conventional tattoos I don’t think they will be significantly different,” says Yetisan. “We have received a lot of interest from people who are doing biohacking and those in the quantified self movement.”

One other issue is around data protection, since the tattoos could be a very visual measure of a medication condition. One possible way of getting around this is by working in the non-visible infrared range and using a smartphone infrared camera mode to see the tattoo.

It will be interesting to see where this futuristic technology goes.

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Sign up for the free digital edition of Fit Tech magazine and the free weekly Fit Tech ezine
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Interview: Ali Yetisen

Lead researcher, Technical University Munich

A team at Technical University Munich has come up with technology that can turn tattoos into biomarkers. Lead researcher Ali Yetisen explains his vision of making human skin a diagnostic display…

Published in Fit Tech 2020 issue 1

With everyone now familiar with wearables, researchers at Technical University Munich (TUM), headed by Ali Yetisen, set up a project to envision how they may look in 20 or 30 years time. The 10-strong team has taken wearables to the next level, by using the skin as a diagnostic display to show real time changes in the body’s constitution.

The tattoo uses a dye which changes colour according to changes in the interstitial fluid, which is a surrogate medium for blood. To date, it works with three elements found in the blood: pH levels, glucose and albumin, a type of protein. This means the tattoo could alert a diabetic patient if they were having a blood sugar spike.

“If the glucose levels are high, the tattoo turns green, and if they are too low it becomes yellow,” explains Yetisen. “This could be an effective way of keeping track of health for people with specific health concerns.”

The next phase of research will look at electrolytes to show hydration and dehydration levels; this could be applied in the health and fitness industry, particularly for those taking part in endurance sports.

“Minerals such as sodium, potassium and magnesium are critical in monitoring the body’s hydration status and this could provide a real time measurement,” says Yetisen. “We could also look at lactate and glucose levels and the impact of fructose and caffeine.

“The third phase of our research will look at hormone levels – testosterone, adrenalin, cortisol, all of the stress biomarkers, which can identify fatigue and exhaustion. The opportunities are endless, it is a new concept which no one has really explored.”

Going forward
One of the challenges of the research was to find the exact viscosity of the dye to prevent diffusion of the tattoo. To do this, the team practised on pig skin, as this is similar to human skin. Long term they plan to develop bioluminescent sensors, which will make the skin glow, to replace the dyes.

It is too early to say whether or not this technology will be embraced by the medical community, as there needs to be more testing on its safety.

“We need to test the cytotoxicity and any reaction, but as the tattoos are based on conventional tattoos I don’t think they will be significantly different,” says Yetisan. “We have received a lot of interest from people who are doing biohacking and those in the quantified self movement.”

One other issue is around data protection, since the tattoos could be a very visual measure of a medication condition. One possible way of getting around this is by working in the non-visible infrared range and using a smartphone infrared camera mode to see the tattoo.

It will be interesting to see where this futuristic technology goes.

Gallery
More features

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Bannatyne has driven member engagement with Les Mills during the lockdown

Unique challenge

Ken Hughes, expert in consumer culture and human behaviour spoke as part of the Technogym Talks series of webinars about how operators can navigate the new consumer landscape

Super soft

As gyms reopen, restrictions on numbers are demanding more of their software. HCM asks the experts how their systems can enable gyms to cope with post lockdown requirements

Pivot to digital

The coronavirus pandemic has inspired a huge pivot to digital right across the industry, from sole traders to large chains and trusts. Kath Hudson looks at some of the offerings pulled together in lightning fast time to keep members active and sane

Soft power

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing gyms across the world to temporarily close their doors, staying connected to your members digitally has never been more important. Software suppliers tell Steph Eaves how they’re contributing

PureGym scales up Funxtion’s digital integration

With the spread of COVID-19 forcing more people into isolation, PureGym worked with FunXtion to rapidly include a digital on-demand workout offering to support members at home

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Wattbike has partnered with Intelligent Cycling to transform indoor cycling with innovative new technology that enables automatic personalisation for riders in a group cycling class
people

Markos Kern

Founder & CEO, Fun With Balls
Like gaming, it’s very addictive, but this time in a good way. Imagine shooting space invaders on a squash court or kicking a soccer ball to kill some monsters

Lover app

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Get smart

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Sri Peruvemba

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Our gloves allow users to have digital hands in virtual reality, and to manipulate objects as though they existed in real life

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