Skin patch mon­i­tor sweats the health de­tails

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

Break­ing a sweat? Re­searchers are de­vel­op­ing a skin patch that can test those droplets while peo­ple ex­er­cise and beam re­sults to their smart­phones, pos­si­bly of­fer­ing a new way to track health and fit­ness.

The ex­per­i­men­tal gad­get goes well be­yond ac­tiv­ity mon­i­tors such as the Fit­bit. A lit­tle larger than a quar­ter, it’s al­most like a tiny lab stuck to the skin—and a study pub­lished re­cently found it worked on sweaty bi­cy­clists, stick­ing even dur­ing a long-dis­tance race in Ari­zona.

If you think of per­spi­ra­tion as just a drippy nui­sance, think again.

“Sweat has bio­chem­i­cal com­po­nents within it that tell us a lot about phys­i­o­log­i­cal health,” said John A. Rogers, who di­rects North­west­ern Univer­sity’s Cen­ter for Bio-In­te­grated Elec­tron­ics and led the new re­search.

To­day’s wear­able tech­nol­ogy helps peo­ple track their calo­ries, ac­tiv­ity and heart rate. A wear­able biosen­sor would be “rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent,” Rogers said. For sim­ple fit­ness pur­poses, it could give an early warn­ing that it’s time to re­plen­ish elec­trolytes be­fore some­one starts to feel de­hy­drated. But even­tu­ally with ad­di­tional re­search, Rogers en­vi­sions more so­phis­ti­cated uses of such de­vices, such as real-time mon­i­tor­ing of how the body ad­justs dur­ing mil­i­tary train­ing or even to screen peo­ple for dis­eases such as di­a­betes or cys­tic fi­bro­sis. But so far the patches are just tem­po­rary. Rogers’ sweat patches are de­signed for one-time use over a few hours. While the lat­est stud­ies used an early ver­sion that an­a­lyzed sweat just once dur­ing the ex­er­cise, he’s now test­ing a de­sign ca­pa­ble of mul­ti­ple mea­sure­ments over time.

A new wear­able tech­nol­ogy may al­low fu­ture users to an­a­lyze the bio­chem­i­cal com­po­nents of their sweat, mon­i­tor­ing how the body ad­justs to stress like a tiny lab stuck to the skin.

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