Could A Skin Patch That Monitors Sweat Be the Next “Wearable”

skin-patchSweat is important. I know it may not seem that way but we need. Perspiration, first of all, keeps the body cool as temperatures rise—whether externally or internally. But sweating also helps to rid the body of toxins and waste. In fact, as Northwestern University medical school biomedical engineering, materials science, and neurosurgery specialist, Professor John A. Rogers, explains “Sweat is a rich, chemical broth containing a lot of important compounds with physiological health information.”

The director of the Northwestern University Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics has worked with professor Yonggang Huang on stretchy electronics research for many years. They have been looking for ways to use this technology to move with the skin and monitor activity. Now they have finally been able to incorporate this technology into a device with the ability to analyze biofluids.

Rogers, thus, continues, “By expanding our previously developed ‘epidermal’ electronics platform to include a complex network of microfluidic channels and storage reservoirs, we can now perform biochemical analysis of this important biofluid.”

Indeed, today’s wearable technology can already track activity, calorie burning, heart rate, and more. A wearable biosensor—a health-tracking skin patch—would be “radically different,” Rogers advises.
Huang adds, “We already knew how to place electrons on the skin in a natural manner – here the challenge was dealing with fluid flow and the collection, storage and analysis of sweat in a thin, soft and flexible device. The sweat analysis platform we developed will allow people to monitor their health on the spot without the need for a blood sampling and with integrated electronics that do not require a battery but still enable wireless connection to a smartphone.”

In addition, Rogers goes on to explain that the new device contains several sensors that can detect a smartphone which, when in proximity will automatically trigger an app which photographs the device and analyzes four reservoirs on the patch. He explains that the team chose the four biomarkers in particular as the most comprehensive means to monitor health status. He details: “The device can also determine sweat rate and loss, and it can store samples for subsequent laboratory analysis, if necessary.”

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