AUG 16, 2017 12:00 PM PDT

The Biosensor that Tests Your Sweat without You Sweating Over It

Blood is king in the world of Point of Care Testing. But the process of drawing blood is invasive, and it represents a challenge for continuous monitoring over hours or days. Sweat, a rich source of electrolytes, is often undervalued for its role in assessing one’s health. Numerous diseases are associated with abnormal sweat or sweating behavior. When sweat glands become exhausted and unable to secrete sweat, a person can suffer heat stroke. Cystic fibrosis patients can be diagnosed with a sweat test because their sweat gland ducts tend to reabsorb less chloride, resulting in an extra high concentration of chloride in their sweat. Even though sweat is an attractive alternative to blood, not all people can benefit from sweat-base biometric analysis. To generate sweat, one has to perform exercises and be subject to a warm environment. For some this is simply impossible. For instance, any stress on the cardiovascular system can be a life-endangering threat to cardiac patients.

The Band-Aid size biosensor that can stimulate and analyze sweat. Credit: University of Cincinnati

A research team from the University of Cincinnati lead by Professor Jason Heikenfeld has developed a wearable sweat sensor that can chemically stimulate sweat for hours, as well as detect and analyze the chemical analytes without cross-contamination.

Their band-aid size device combines a sensor, electricity-conducting gel, and memory foam padding with stimulant delivery mechanism: it uses a 0.22 milliamps of electrical current to drive carbachol (a cholinomimetic drug and sweat stimulant) into the upper layer of the skin. The amount of carbachol is so small that it does not irritate or harm the skin other than inducing sweat locally. The group recorded 30-minutes worth of data on sweat electrolytes from study subjects. Carbachol was capable of inducing sweating under the sensor for as long as five hours. According to the unpublished results of a follow-up study, their sensor was able to record results for several days under the same sweat stimulation mechanism.

With this innovative technology, doctors can monitor the chemical profile of patients’ sweat over an hour-long time frame while the patients can be resting and remain in a thermally comfortable environment. "Imagine being able to monitor cardiac patients after they have been released from the hospital, or preventing dehydration in athletes or even helping ensure that your body is getting the exact right concentrations of a prescription drug," said Dr. Heikenfeld.

The researchers described their achievement as “a significant leap forward” in terms of sweat sensing technology. They hope that their design could attract broader interest so that it can gain widespread application. “The end goal is to take the idea from a bench-top test to a portable device—perhaps for people in high-stress jobs like airline pilots—and analyze them for stress," Sonner said. "If you're a pilot, you can't do blood draws while you're flying the plane. But a sensor could analyze sweat so we can begin to understand how their body responds to stressful situations," explained Zachary Sonner, the lead author of the paper.

 

Dr. Jason Heikenfeld explained his research and development of fluidics at the University of Cincinnati. Credit: EnterchangeCincinnati

Source: Lab on a Chip/Phys.org

About the Author
  • With years of experience in biomedical R & D, Daniel is also very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles.
You May Also Like
AUG 10, 2018
Videos
AUG 10, 2018
Why Cuttlefish are Called Chameleons of the Sea
Did you know that cuttlefish can change color, texture, and shape? Did you know they contain a bone called the cuttlebone? There is a reason why they are c...
AUG 16, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
AUG 16, 2018
A-bombs Were More Powerful Than First Estimated
The atomic age gave birth to a pair of unlikely twins: onet being nuclear reactor technology that supplies us low-carbon energy and life-saving radioisotop...
SEP 06, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
SEP 06, 2018
Plastics Recylcing: How Does It Work?
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE), a thermoplastic polymer consisting of numerous units of terephthalate (C10H8O4),  is one of the most co...
NOV 06, 2018
Plants & Animals
NOV 06, 2018
How do Moths Avoid Being Eaten by Bats? The Secret Might Lie in Their 'Fur'
It’s no secret that bats enjoy munching on moths when they’re feeling a bit hungry, but one thing that has always captivated scientists is how...
NOV 07, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 07, 2018
Why Are Fruit Flies Attracted to Rotting Fruit Smell?
Fruit flies are the staple pests in the kitchen during summer. As much as these unwelcomed guests enjoy sucking up sugary juice, they are actually more att...
NOV 11, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 11, 2018
Rocket Lab Successfully Sends Electron Rocket on its First Commercial Flight
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket quickly became of the most prominent means of commercial and private satellite launches, but sending such a massive rocket t...
Loading Comments...