A breakthrough wearable? Sweat analysis for cystic fibrosis and diabetes diagnosis.

click to enlargeResearchers at Stanford University School of Medicine and University of California-Berkeley have developed a wristband equipped with a sensor that can capture and analyze perspiration. The design stimulates the production of sweat, with the embedded sensors and microprocessors detecting the presence of different molecules and ions based on their electrical signals. In the abstract’s words, this is an “electrochemically enhanced iontophoresis interface, integrated in a wearable sweat analysis platform.” The wearable was tested in two separate studies for detecting a key indicator for cystic fibrosis (CF)–a high level of chloride ions–and in comparing levels of glucose in sweat to blood glucose for diabetes. The data is transmitted via smartphone to a server that analyzes the results in real time.

The potential for this wearable is considerable. First, for CF, it changes a 70-year-old protocol–that sweat is stimulated and collected in a 30-minute procedure, then sent to an outside lab to be analyzed with the usual delay. Children being screened for CF have trouble sitting still for the lengthy test. The second is that the test can be done anywhere with minimal training, making it suitable for underserved communities and developing areas of the world. The third is in CF drug development. CF genetics have multiple mutations, limiting drug usefulness. A test such of this in real time could speed drug clinical trials and human response.

The glucose testing was preliminary in comparing the glucose in sweat with standard blood glucose levels, but also proved that the platform could be used for other perspiration constituents, such as sodium and lactate. The ultimate intent of the researchers is to incorporate the technology into a smartwatch for continuous monitoring, but they recognize two challenges: reproducibility, to see whether measurements are consistent, and mapping all the constituents of sweat.

The report was published on 17 April in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). Abstract and full report (PDF, 6 pages). Stanford Medicine News Center

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