Monitoring diseases through sweat becomes accessible to everyone

Clinical trials on pediatric patients with cystic fibrosis have shown success using a flexible device that can stimulate sweat glands and simultaneously monitor biosignals. This groundbreaking research was a two-year collaboration between KIST and Northwestern University.

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Dr. Kim Joohee, a renowned figure from the Bionics Research Center at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), and Professor John A. Rogers, a distinguished name from Northwestern University, have jointly unveiled a groundbreaking development in non-invasive health monitoring. Their collaborative effort has led to the creation of a revolutionary sweat monitoring device, a game-changer in the field of health technology, that eliminates the need for intense physical activity to induce sweat.

The newly developed device, a testament to innovation, is designed to collect and analyze biomarkers in sweat. This enables the painless and convenient monitoring of various health conditions, from diabetes to genetic disorders. Unlike previous methods that relied on physical activity to induce sweat, this device delivers drugs that stimulate sweat glands through the skin, making the process effortless and accessible to individuals with limited mobility.

The small, soft, and flexible device can be easily attached to the skin. Applying a current to a hydrogel containing drugs stimulates sweat glands, and the sweat is collected in microfluidic channels within the device for analysis using biosensors. This method reduces the need for cumbersome hospital visits for testing and lowers the risk of biomarker contamination during testing, thereby increasing accuracy.

The device was tested in a clinical research study. It was successfully attached to infants with cystic fibrosis, and chloride concentration, a key biomarker in sweat, was accurately measured. The results were consistent with traditional hospital analysis methods, with an accuracy rate exceeding 98%. This breakthrough can revolutionize disease monitoring, particularly for pediatric patients, by enabling easy and continuous monitoring of disease progression and physical conditions at home.

Dr. Kim Joohee expressed her enthusiasm for the collaborative research’s success, stating, “Through two years of collaborative research with Northwestern University, we have not only addressed the limitations of existing methods for inducing sweat but also achieved success in clinical research, bringing us one step closer to commercialization.” Professor John A. Rogers added, “We plan to conduct large-scale clinical studies and commercialization, including adults, in the future.”

The implications of this new technology extend beyond health monitoring. The method of delivering drugs through the skin can also be utilized to increase the delivery rate of drugs in localized areas, such as skin conditions or wounds, thereby accelerating recovery.

Also Read: Electronic skin for monitoring stress responses

This groundbreaking development marks a significant advancement in non-invasive disease monitoring technology, with far-reaching implications for pediatric and adult patients. The potential for commercialization and widespread application of this innovative sweat monitoring device represents a significant step forward in non-invasive health technology.

Journal Reference

  1. Kim, J., Oh, S., Yang, D. S., Rugg, L., Mathur, R., Kwak, S. S., Yoo, S., Li, S., Kanatzidis, E. E., Lee, G., Yoon, H., Huang, Y., Ghaffari, R., McColley, S. A., & Rogers, J. A. (2024). A skin-interfaced, miniaturized platform for triggered induction, capture and colorimetric multicomponent analysis of microliter volumes of sweat. Biosensors and Bioelectronics, 253, 116166. DOI: 10.1016/j.bios.2024.116166

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