New Smart Patch Analyzes Sweat to Track Stress

Who knew sweat could be such a big deal? Looking back through our coverage here on Health Tech Insider, in 2020 alone we wrote about five technologies that monitor sweat to measure drug levels at UCLA and the Stanford School of Medicine, pH at National Univerity of Singapore, vital signs at CalTech, vitamin C at the University of California San Diego, and biochemicals in general at UCLA’s ‘s Samueli School of Engineering. John Rogers of Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering has been one of the leaders in sweat analysis for years. In 2016 we wrote about a sweat patch Rogers and his team referred to as a “Lab on the Skin.” Rogers and a large group of researchers for Northwestern, the University of Illinois, and research institutions in Korea and Japan published and important paper in PNAS, the Proceeding for the National Academy of Sciences, that outlines the significance of a multifunctional skin-mounted microfluidic platform that collects and assesses parameters from sweat that relate to stress. The research team studied wearable wireless devices that analyze sweat for cortisol, vitamin C, and glucose while simultaneously measuring sweat rate and GSR (which refers to “galvanic skin response,” not “gunshot residue” as fans of TV police procedurals might conclude). The new platform is less bulky than earlier designs and operates without batteries, powered instead by a near-field communication (NFC) microcontroller. Unhealthy levels of physical and mental stress can contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity: a smorgasbord of diseases and conditions also known as “metabolic syndrome.” According to the study, a noninvasive skin-interface technology that monitors stress could help with timely intervention to prevent or treat the dangerous ramifications of unhealthy stress levels.

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