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Hello? Sweat and a Smartphone Could Become the Hot New Health Screening

The next generation of sweat sensor pad and flexible Bluetooth circuit.

Wearable devices under development at the University of Cincinnati will be able to gather medical information on the wearer in near-real time.

Credit: Colleen Kelley

University of Cincinnati (UC) researchers are developing lightweight, wearable devices that analyze sweat using a smartphone to gather medical information in near-real time. The devices are patches resembling band-aids that use paper microfluids to collect and gather biomarkers, such as electrolytes, metabolites, proteins, small molecules, and amino acids, which can signal the physical state of the body and are carried in sweat.

"The newer patches in development are also meant to measure recovery from stress, which in many cases is more important initially than measuring the stressors themselves," says UC professor Jason Heikenfeld, head of UC's Novel Devices Laboratory. "One example goal is to measure cortisol levels and tell you how they return to normal over time."

The patch wicks sweat in a tree-root pattern, maximizing the collection area while minimizing the volume of paper. The patch includes a sodium sensor, voltage meter, communications antenna, microfluidics, and a controller chip.

Heikenfeld notes the system also could be applied to drug monitoring. "Ultimately, sweat analysis will offer minute-by-minute insight into what is happening in the body, with on-demand, localized, electronically stimulated sweat sampling in a manner that is convenient and unobtrusive," he says.

From UC Magazine
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