MAY 13, 2021 8:00 AM PDT

Smart Patch Measures How Itchy You Are

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

A wearable “scratch sensor” developed by researchers at Northwestern University could finally help doctors measure just how bad their patients’ itchy skin conditions are. Several medical conditions—from kidney failure to eczema—cause patients to become itchy, initiating a scratch reflex. However, it’s often difficult for patients to measure how itchy their conditions are.

Now, the soft, waterproof sensor developed by Steve Xu and colleagues can provide doctors with answers. The device is applied to the back of the patients’ dominant hand and detects both the scratching hand movement as well as the sound of nails against the skin. The device, called ADAM (ADvanced Acousto-Mechanic) can differentiate between scratching and other similar hand movements such as scrolling on a mouse or texting on a cell phone.

“If you were to sort of scratch in the air, that’s not real scratching, but the motion is identical,” explained Xu. “Our sensor can distinguish between the two and that’s something that systems that have been tried before simply cannot do.”

A single charge of the sensor allows it to be worn for a week, wirelessly transmitting information directly to physicians’ computers. The sensors were found to have extremely high accuracy rates, matching up closely with camera recordings of patients scratching during the night. “Clinical validation studies with 11 participants reveal an overall accuracy of 99.0% with a sensitivity of 84.3% and a specificity of 99.3%, even in naturalistic home environments,” wrote the authors.

Getting these objective itch measures can empower physicians to assess how serious a condition is as well as monitor patients’ response to treatment without having to rely on patients’ notoriously inaccurate self-reported measures.

 

Sources: Science Advances, New Scientist


 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
MAR 31, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
A Non-Invasive Look at Fat Distribution in the Liver
MAR 31, 2021
A Non-Invasive Look at Fat Distribution in the Liver
The build-up of fat inside the liver is a worrying sign that points to the possibility of conditions such as nonalcoholi ...
APR 13, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
A Color-Changing "Invisible Tattoo" for Long-Term Health Monitoring
APR 13, 2021
A Color-Changing "Invisible Tattoo" for Long-Term Health Monitoring
German researchers have developed an innovative method for continuously tracking and monitoring biomarkers and drugs cir ...
APR 09, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
CRISPR-SNP Chip Finds Point Mutations in DNA Without PCR
APR 09, 2021
CRISPR-SNP Chip Finds Point Mutations in DNA Without PCR
Some diseases, like sickle-cell anemia and familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are due to errors in only a single let ...
APR 27, 2021
Cardiology
New miRNAs Might Help Diagnose Severe Dilated Cardiomyopathy
APR 27, 2021
New miRNAs Might Help Diagnose Severe Dilated Cardiomyopathy
The heart is one of the most reliable parts of the body. It pumps day and night, delivering fresh oxygen and nutrients t ...
MAY 10, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Noninvasive Device Warns When Wounds Are Bleeding
MAY 10, 2021
Noninvasive Device Warns When Wounds Are Bleeding
Patients with kidney failure have to undergo hemodialysis—a process where a dialysis machine takes the place of ki ...
MAY 09, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Another Neurodevelopmental Disorder is Discovered
MAY 09, 2021
Another Neurodevelopmental Disorder is Discovered
Researchers are identifying more rare disorders because of advances in genetic sequencing technologies, which have made ...
Loading Comments...