A University of Cincinnati partnership is reporting a significant leap forward in health diagnostics that are more accurate than what’s available today, yet considerably less invasive than something like a blood screening. It’s a lightweight, wearable device that analyzes sweat by using a smartphone.
In an article published in the latest issue of IEEE Spectrum Magazine, Jason Heikenfeld, a UC professor of electrical engineering and computing systems, highlights new developments regarding the gadget that can gather vital medical information in almost real time.
With that kind of information, athletes could avoid the killer cramps that could cause them to be carried off the field at the peak of their game or competition. Preemies’ vitals could be monitored without drawing blood – the pain and blood loss causing even more stress on a physically-stressed infant. One day, diabetics could maybe even avoid those painful sticks as well, as they check their glucose levels.
Heikenfeld says the patches are as light and flexible as a BAND-AID and use paper microfluidics – an inexpensively developed technology similar to that of a home pregnancy test – to collect and gather biomarkers carried in sweat. Those biomarkers – electrolytes, metabolites, proteins, small molecules, amino acids and such – can signal the physical state of the body.
In athletes for example, a drop in electrolytes can cause those paralyzing cramps. “Athletes want to constantly push their athletic training to the absolute limit. But it’s hard to tell when you’re pushing too far, when you’re basically causing tissue damage, and this will tell you that,” says Heikenfeld. “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. One example goal is to measure cortisol levels and tell you how they return to normal over time.”