We all sweat. And while most people find that a bit dirty, it is essential for the use of a new device. Indeed, researchers have developed a kind of patch that has the ability to analyze a person’s health through his or her sweat. And in this way, it can effectively reveal certain diseases.
“Sweat contains biomarkers that we can use to detect or track various diseases,” researcher Larry Cheng. However, so far, doctors rely on blood tests to diagnose a wide range of diseases. Needles and other tools are thus required. However, sweat comes naturally from the body. “Because analyzing sweat as opposed to blood tests is non-invasive, it’s starting to gain ground in disease diagnostics and sports physiology,” Cheng continues. “It is therefore very important to develop devices that allow us to accurately record, store and assess both the composition of sweat and the loss of sweat.”
How does it work?
The device is integrated into a kind of patch that needs to be stuck on the skin near the sweat glands. If you then start exercising or become hot, sweat droplets will develop. These droplets will be directed to sensors through the patch. “Unlike other devices with two openings, our device is equipped with only one opening,” Cheng explains. “As a result, the sweat evaporates less quickly, which allows us to improve the accuracy of the sweat analysis. The sample can also be stored for a long time for a more extensive analysis at a later date.”
You can leave the patch for a few minutes, but also for a few hours. It just depends on how fast and how much you sweat. “In our study, we removed the patch after an hour of light exercise,” cheng explains. During this time, the device collects different data. The user can then read this data with the naked eye. The device can detect a rich range of biomarkers, including pH and glucose content.
In this way, a user gains insight into his health. In addition, it can be revealed in this way whether someone has a certain disease. “While the link between sweat parameters and various diseases has not yet been directly demonstrated, there is plenty of reason to believe that sweat and containing biomarkers can serve as indicators of early detection of a particular disease,” cheng says. “For example, too high pH may be an indication of metabolic alkalosis and glucose levels may be an indicator of diabetes. Too much creatinine and urea is associated with kidney damage and lactate levels with fatigue or insufficient blood flow.” In addition, excessive or lack of sweating can indicate overheating or stroke. And in this way, the device can thus reveal many potential health hazards.
Good for Athletes
The device is therefore very interesting for health care. “It actually surprised us how suitable this device is for clinical medicine,” cheng says. But it also has other uses. It can also be very beneficial for athletes to determine how to perform as optimally as possible. “Thanks to the patch, athletes can get a better understanding of their body temperature, fluid balance and sweat loss,” explains Cheng. “This allows them to better prevent overheating. The device can become particularly important for American football players. They often train during the hottest time of the year, which sometimes causes them to suffer heat exhaustion and strokes. Similar sports may also benefit. At the same time, of course, it also offers a solution for fitness enthusiasts.”
In the near future, the researchers will continue to tinker with the device for a while. The question is therefore when the patch will appear on the market. “That’s hard to predict,” Cheng says. “We are still really at an early stage of development. We are working on continuous technological improvements and are also developing a smartphone apps. However, we have joined forces with an industrial partner to prepare it for large-scale, preclinical testing.” So we’re going to have to be patient. But according to the researchers, it’s still worth the wait. Because the promising patch will make life a little easier for many people and athletes.