For a long time, it felt like there were countless smart devices claiming to measure health statistics, or even predict calories or nutrition in a particular food. It sure is an interesting concept. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a single gadget tell us just what we need to be healthier? Just as you might be thinking that’s what doctors and professionals are for, think again. There’s a new kind of wearable device in town that is able to analyze bits of data about our health through the magical composition of sweat.
This new technological breakthrough is thanks to developments made by US researchers from the University of California, who have been advancing the general idea found in wearables today. The unnamed device, as described in the journal Nature, works just like other wearables by communicating with an accompanying smartphone app. It is also worn on the body, except this time, as a film directly on the skin in order to monitor the chemical composition of perspiration. This is a lot more data than what a typical wearable device can gather (such as walking pace). In fact, you’d be surprised just how much your sweat can say about your overall health.
Lead researcher, Professor Ali Javey, says sweat analysis isn’t new, but is already being used in the health industry for “applications such as disease diagnosis, drug abuse detection and athletic performance optimization”. Further, because sweat is so “rich in physiological information, it has been difficult to collect and analyze”. The team of researchers have found that in order to gather the necessary data and be able to transmit it, they would need to incorporate multiple sensors and a flexible circuit board computer. Sticking to human skin and activated by (small amounts of) perspiration, the 5 sensors are able to measure temperature and four chemicals- sodium, potassium, glucose, and lactate (ABC).
The way these sensors gather information is just the beginning. Researchers intend on using the device to use sweat to look at other chemicals, and even provide health information based on large groups of individuals and populations. Dr. Heikenfeld, from the University of Cincinnati, says the stress hormone, cortisol, as well as small-molecule drugs and their metabolites, can all be found in sweat. Monitoring either of these scenarios could help predict rises and falls in stress and medication levels, leading to advances in medicine and mental health research. As it stands, wearable devices are officially taking an innovative leap forward in the health industry. Rather than seeing them on a runner’s wrist in a commercial, we may soon be seeing them in the lab.
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