Scientists develop a sweat-analysing microfluidic device that sticks to the skin during exercise and delivers real-time health information to the wearer. Matthew Stock reports.
This skin-like stretchable sensor absorbs sweat as you work out. It was developed by scientists from Northwestern University alongside other institutions, who call it a 'lab on the skin'. The stick-on patch analyses key biomarkers to show how the body is responding to exercise. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR JOHN A. ROGERS, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "Sweat is an interesting bio-fluid because it can be collected non-invasively and it has a lot of important bio-markers that relate to health and fitness and physiological status. And our goal was to develop a new kind of technology; a thin skin-like soft device platform that can integrate directly with the skin and capture sweat as it's released from sweat glands." During exercise, sweat winds its way through tiny microscopic channels into different compartments. Here, they meet chemical reagents that change colour under certain conditions -- giving the (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR JOHN A. ROGERS, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "This simple device allows us to measure total sweat loss, sweat rate, lactate concentration, the pH of sweat, the amount of glucose in sweat and the chloride concentration. That provides a very good profile of an individual's health status and how that's varying during exercising, for example." No external power supply is needed. Instead, a smartphone app takes a picture of the patch and analyses the image -- giving the wearer a real-time update of how their body's shaping up. The developers say it's low-cost and designed for one-time use of a few hours. Eventually, they say it may be more broadly used for disease diagnosis, for example tracking glucose levels in diabetics. The research is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.