New Sweat Monitor Could Replace Blood Tests

  • Mary Nichols , Design & Trend Contributor
  • Jan, 28, 2016, 06:25 PM
Tags : science
(Photo : Getty Images/Nick Laham) Scientists have created a sweat monitor able to monitor the chemical composition of your perspiration so you can keep tabs on your health.

Scientists have created a sweat monitor able to monitor the chemical composition of your perspiration so you can keep tabs on your health.

The wearable monitor was designed to move with you and also has inbuilt Bluetooth capabilities, meaning it is able to send vital information to a smartphone in real time, writes the LA Times.

It soon be used to let users know if they are at risk of succumbing to fatigue, dehydration and other physical complaints -- a vast improvement on current activity monitors such as the Fitbit.

"The goal, ultimately is to have a pathology lab right on the body," Ali Javey, a professor of electrical engineering at UC Berkeley and the paper's senior author, told the LA Times.

The monitor is currently able to track the presence and levels of four biomarkers in sweat including sodium and potassium electrolytes, and glucose and lactate metabolites. It is also able to track a person's temperature.

According to the researchers, low levels of sodium and potassium in sweat could indicate that the person is about to experience muscle cramps or dehydration. Glucose monitoring could help people to monitor levels during exercise, while sweat lactate levels have been linked with reduced blood flow in specific areas of the body.

The current model is only the beginning, Javey said. Researchers are already looking to monitor other proteins, molecules and ions that could provide more information as to physical health.

Blood tests have been doctors primary tool to collect information about the function of the body - with urine and saliva samples also used to a lesser extent. Until now, sweat has not been a real option due to the difficulties in obtaining a sample large enough for testing.

"Having a wearable sweat sensor is really incredible because the metabolites and electrolytes measured by the Javey device are vitally important for the health and well-being of an individual," George Brooks, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology and co-author on the study, said in a news release. "When studying the effects of exercise on human physiology, we typically take blood samples. With this non-invasive technology, someday it may be possible to know what's going on physiologically without needle sticks or attaching little, disposable cups on you."

The new monitor is able to get an accurate reading from just 1/10th of a droplet of perspiration, Javey says. But he'd like to see that amount get even smaller.

"The long term goal is to see if we can work with minimum amount of body liquid, so you won't need to exercise for the monitor to work," he told the LA Times.

The new device is not the first wearable sweat monitor ever created, but it one of the first to measure biomarkers.
In order to ensure accurate readings, the scientists built a small, flexible computer that calibrates temperature readings with the data it is collecting.

Its sensors are created from a disposable plastic-based material and can be attached to a reusable flexible circuit board. All the components can be tucked into an athletic wristband or headband for wear ability.

Jason Heikenfeld, an electrical engineer at the University of Cincinnati, said the new sweat monitor looks impressive.

"Making a wearable band that electrochemically senses sweat analytes is extremely difficult," he wrote, in a News and Views article in Nature.

He notes that more work is needed before the monitors become a commercial product, but believes that this is an achievable goal.

Heikenfeld predicts that there may soon come a time where we no longer remember living without personalized sweat trackers.

The study was published in the journal Nature.

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