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How to Measure Health-Related Biomarkers from Sweat?

Enterprise Technology Review | Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The patch built with sensors allows measurement of health-related biomarkers from sweat.

Fremont, CA: Researchers have newly developed a patch that can measure nearly six health-related problems by analyzing sweat. In traditional methods, to gain insights about health markers like glucose or uric acid levels in patients, blood is collected and sent to a lab where lab technicians analyze it and give the results. To reduce the time spent to carry out such tests and to minimize the workload, researchers are looking for alternative ways. Making the process less invasive and closer to real-time is possible with a patch that can address both the issues mentioned above.

The patch was built by embedding the sensors in a woven graphite-silk fabric. When the graphite used is doped with nitrogen atoms, it enhances conductivity. The resulting electrochemical patch can then be applied to the skin on the arm. The patch is flexible enough to conform to the skin. It has tiny holes to pull in sweat when attached to the skin.

The patch collects data from sweat for levels of ascorbic acid, potassium, lactate, glucose, sodium, and uric acid. Researchers note that seSensor technsors used for studying sweat include devices that measure color range using fluorescence methods or electrochemical processes where the latter is the preferred method. The sensors they used measure acids by monitoring the amount of current that arises during oxidation. The quantity of hydrogen peroxide created during the enzymatic redox process indicates the levels of hydrogen peroxide. And, potassium and sodium ions were measured using sensors with ion-selective membranes.

The patch was tested in five healthy adult volunteers by attaching to their arms while pedaling on an exercise bike. Results were sent to a smartphone in a form that can be easily interpreted by the user or doctor dealing, and it was observed that the patch provided simultaneous measurements of all six biomarkers with a high degree of sensitivity. An added advantage of this skin patch biomarker sensor is that they do not need batteries and can be used in any environment, including underwater. The researchers note that elements in sweat include markers for things like cystic fibrosis, dehydration and electrolyte levels.  

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