Researchers develop wearable device that measures levels of disease markers via ‘sweat’

San Francisco: Researchers have developed a wearable health monitor that measures levels of important biochemicals in sweat during physical exercise, a new study said on Thursday. According to the study published in the journal ACS Sensors, the 3D-printed monitor could someday provide a simple and non-invasive way to track health conditions and diagnose common diseases, such as diabetes, gout, kidney disease, or heart disease. The researchers were able to accurately monitor the levels of volunteers’ glucose, lactate, uric acid, and the rate of their sweating during exercise, the study mentioned. “I think 3D printing can make a difference to the healthcare fields, and I wanted to see if we can combine 3D printing with disease detection methods to create a device like this,” said Chuchu Chen, a Washington State University (WSU) PhD student and first author on the paper.

For their proof-of-concept health monitor, the researchers used 3D printing to make the health monitors in a unique, one-step manufacturing process. They used a single-atom catalyst and enzymatic reactions to enhance the signal and measure low levels of the biomarkers. Sweat contains many vital metabolites that can indicate health conditions, but, unlike blood sampling, it’s non-invasive. Levels of uric acid in sweat can indicate the risk of developing gout, kidney disease, or heart disease. Glucose levels are used to monitor diabetes, and lactate levels can indicate exercise intensity, the researchers mentioned. According to Kaiyan Qiu, Berry Assistant Professor in WSU’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, the health monitor is made of very tiny channels to measure the sweat rate and biomarkers’ concentration.

As they are being fabricated via 3D printing, the micro-channels do not require any supporting structure, which can cause contamination problems as they are removed, he added. When the researchers compared the monitors on volunteers’ arms to lab results, they found that their monitor accurately and reliably measured the concentration of the chemicals as well as the sweating rate, the study mentioned.

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