Article image

New device analyzes sweat to monitor health 

Scientists have developed a health monitoring device that can diagnose disease by analyzing sweat.

Beyond its usefulness in healthcare, the device may be used to prevent overheating or to assess optimal exercise levels in athletes. 

Study lead author Huanyu “Larry” Cheng is an assistant professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Penn State.

“We want to be able to analyze the sweat from daily exercise or from the heat of the sun because in sweat we have a lot of biomarkers like pH and glucose that will be a really nice indicator for disease progression or diagnostics,” said Professor Cheng.

The device will worn on a patch and applied to the skin near sweat glands. It consists of a small container with multiple chambers and a water-repelling valve near the opening. 

The monitor has a hydrophilic coating that easy collects sweat. The device has a single opening, which minimizes the amount of evaporation for longer storage time.

“The two-valve device is more complicated and requires using a clean-room technique called photolithography,” said Professor Cheng. “Our simpler one-valve device can be made without expensive equipment utilizing micromachining.”

According to the researchers, an instant analysis can be done using a color-coded analyte that is positioned in the various chambers. The analyte has sensitive chemical compounds that respond to the pH or glucose level, and the results can be read with the naked eye or by taking a picture with a smartphone. 

One of the chambers can be color-coded to measure pH, a second for glucose, and a third for sodium – all of which are disease markers.

The researchers are currently collaborating with experts at Penn State Hershey Medical School to use the new device for disease monitoring. 

The research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Natural Science Foundation of Hunan Province, and Penn State. 

The study is published in the journal Lab on a Chip.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day