Investigators at the University of Cincinnati have developed a biosensor that can locally stimulate sweating. The device could make medical sensors that analyze sweat more reliable, as the patient doesn’t need to be physically active to stimulate perspiration.
Scientists have developed numerous sweat sensors, some of which have been featured on Medgadget. Sweat provides a good alternative to blood for biometric analysis, and sweat sensors placed on the skin can monitor a variety of chemical markers of disease. “It is difficult for doctors to perform continuous monitoring of blood over hours or days. Sweat provides a non-invasive alternative, with chemical markers that are more useful in monitoring health than saliva or tears,” explains Jason Heikenfeld, a professor at the University of Cincinnati, and an author on the study, which was recently published in journal Lab on a Chip.
Something that has held the field back a little is the fact that you need to sweat in order for the sensors to work. For patients who aren’t active all day, this poses a challenge. The team set out to develop a sensor that could stimulate sweating in the small patch of skin it touches, without the patient getting hot and bothered.
The sensor combines a gel containing carbachol, a drug that leads to the production of sweat, and a small electrical current that painlessly drives the carbachol into the upper layer of skin so that it can affect the sweat glands. The system could stimulate local sweating for as long as a few days.
The possibilities are numerous. “Imagine being able to monitor cardiac patients after they have been released from the hospital, or preventing dehydration in athletes or even helping ensure that your body is getting the exact right concentrations of a prescription drug,” says Heikenfeld.