Fitness trackers are a dime a dozen these days, but they’ve been ignoring one extremely valuable source of health information – your sweat. Every drop of this liquid tells a story about what is happening inside your body. It provides information on dehydration, stress, depression and even blood glucose.
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This liquid is an ideal source for the capture of data that the medical community usually gathers from our blood, urine, and saliva. It is also the least invasive. The main problem with sweat sensors, though, is actually generating the sweat.
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have now developed a band-aid sized device that solves this problem. Created by UC professor Jason Heikenfeld and UC graduate student Zachary Sonner, the wearable is capable of generating a sweat response without you exerting yourself.
It does this through a combination of chemical and electrical stimulation. An electrical current of 0.2 milliamps drives a tiny amount of a substance called carbachol into the upper layer of the skin. This in turn stimulates sweat glands. The user would likely feel nothing so the technique is in no way unpleasant. In testing, researchers were successful at producing sweat for five hours.
“The end goal is to take the idea from a benchtop test to a portable device – perhaps for people in high-stress jobs like airline pilots – and analyze them for stress,” Zachary Sonner, a lead author on the paper said.
“If you’re a pilot, you can’t do blood draws while you’re flying the plane. But a sensor could analyze sweat so we can begin to understand how their body responds to stressful situations.”
Its fair to say that its been a while since we’ve seen a fitness device that has truly opened up a new frontier in monitoring your health. Unfortunately, this new technology is still in its research stage so it will be a bit of a wait before it hits the mainstream market.
“The challenge is not only coming up with new technological breakthroughs like this, but also bringing all these technology solutions together in a reliable and manufacturable device.” added Heikenfeld.
The science of sweat is still in the early stages although clinical uses trace back to the 1950’s. It is only now that we are witnessing rapid acceleration of the technology for applications ranging from athletics to pediatrics to pharmaceutical monitoring.
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