A goal that many are working toward in the biotechnology field is to gather the maximum biological information about people using the least invasive practices. Ultimately, we would like to be able to simply scan ourselves with a little machine and instantly get a full report on our health for personal and doctor use. Moving forward on those lines is the University of Cincinnati, where a research team has announced a unique and unlikely candidate for the job: a portable, adhesive sweat analyzer.
The raw data that these analyzers need in order to draw conclusions about a person is made up of biomarkers, biological molecules and compounds that help indicate a person’s wellness and fitness levels. Traditionally, these are easily obtained from bodily excretions like blood, saliva, urine, and breath. However, many of these samples (for example blood and urine) are difficult or inconvenient to obtain on a consistent basis. Saliva and breath are not as inconvenient to obtain, but their contents are more variable and diluted due to the things we eat and drink every day. It would be natural to wonder at this point what makes sweat any less inconvenient to obtain on a continuous basis. The trick is to induce sweating in the desired area with a small electrical signal. According to UC Professor Jason Heikenfeld, “we can electrically stimulate a tiny amount of sweat beneath a band-aid sized patch, and get access to an enormous amount of small molecules, peptides, etc., which reveals what is going on inside the body.”
(Sweat sensor prototype, courtesy of www.uc.edu)
This little patch is a big leap forward for biological monitoring. Since it can remain on the body for extended periods of time, users don’t have to think about testing themselves. But how does one obtain information from an adhesive strip? UC programmers have developed a partner smartphone application that can scan the sweat sensor anytime and glean vital information on the fly. It’s like scanning a QR code (pictured left, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons), except the code is on your body and you get back health stats instead of a webpage.
Looking beyond everyday consumer use, the Air Force Research Laboratory is interested in this technology for military use. It would be especially useful in the case of jet pilots, who need to be at full functioning capacity to properly perform their jobs. A dip in oxygen levels or a reaction to pressure increase could be monitored without interfering with the pilot’s flying. Thus a simple sweat analyzer would help track the status of the mission and avoid careless mistakes in judgment.
To that end, the Air Force Research Laboratory is helping fund this project with a $2.2M award. To read more about funding statistics for the University of Cincinnati, please click the button below:
If you are a research scientist or lab supplier interested in networking with others in your field at University of Cincinnati, Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. invites you to attend our annual Cincinnati Bioresearch Product Faire™, held next on August 7th, 2013. Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. is a full-service science research marketing and events-planning company that hosts events at top research institutions nationwide. If you are interested in attending this show, please click the button below. Otherwise, we encourage you to check out our 2013 schedule for a more complete geographical selection.