Tufts University study: Sweat science: Engineers detect health markers in thread-based, wearable sweat sensors

4 Aug

Helen Albert wrote in the Forbes article, Sweat Sensing Next Step For Health Tracking Devices:

Could chemicals in our sweat be the next thing activity trackers start to measure? Researchers are ramping up efforts to refine this technology so they can.

Many of us already wear some form of activity tracker or smartwatch, but these devices are still fairly limited as to how much they can really tell us about our health.

“The Fitbit, the wearable, the smartwatch have hit a roadblock,” says Sameer Sonkusale, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Tufts University School of Engineering, who is developing a sweat sensor with his team.

“They can definitely give you a lot of information. But it does not provide you a real window on how you’re doing internally or biochemically.”

If researchers can get it to work effectively, this kind of technology has a lot of potential for monitoring athletes, or people in active careers such as the army, to optimize performance and make sure they stay healthy. It could also help assess how well medication, or diet and nutrition, is working to combat health issues in some people….      forbes.com/sites/helenalbert/2020/07/31/sweat-sensing-for-health-tracking/#7bf7e41f1b13

Resources:

The Health Benefits of Sweating                                                                                                   https://www.healthline.com/health/sweating-benefits

Wearable sweat sensor could monitor dehydration, fatigue                                                           https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/305751

Utility of sweat patch testing for drug use monitoring in outpatient treatment for opiate dependence                                                                                                                          ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632440/

Science Daily reported in Sweat science: Engineers detect health markers in thread-based, wearable sweat sensors: Real-time measurement of electrolytes and metabolites could be used to diagnose and monitor disease or track performance:

Engineers at Tufts University have created a first-of-its-kind flexible electronic sensing patch that can be sewn into clothing to analyze your sweat for multiple markers. The patch could be used to to diagnose and monitor acute and chronic health conditions or to monitor health during athletic or workplace performance. The device, described today in the journal NPJ Flexible Electronics, consists of special sensing threads, electronic components and wireless connectivity for real time data acquisition, storage and processing.

Typical consumer health monitors can track heart rate, temperature, glucose, walking distance and other gross measurements. But a more detailed understanding of the health, stress and performance of an individual is required for medical data collection or high performance athletic or military applications. In particular, metabolic markers such as electrolytes and other biological molecules provide a more direct indicator of human health for accurate assessment of athletic performance, workplace safety, clinical diagnosis, and managing chronic health conditions.

The patch device created by the Tufts engineers performs real-time measurements of important biomarkers present in sweat including sodium and ammonium ions (electrolytes), lactate (a metabolite) and acidity (pH). The device platform is also versatile enough to incorporate a wide range of sensors cabable of tracking nearly every marker present in sweat. The measurements taken can have useful diagnostic applications. For example, sodium from sweat can indicate the hydration status and electrolyte imbalance in a body; lactate concentration can be an indicator of muscle fatigue; chloride ion levels can be used to diagnosis and monitor cystic fibrosis; and cortisol, a stress hormone, can be used to assess emotional stress as well as metabolic and immune functions.

Athletes could monitor a wide range of markers during physical exertion to aid in predicting performance peaks or declines during competition.

The ability to integrate the sensors into clothing is made possible by flexible threads coated with conductive inks. Different coatings alter the functionality of the threads; for example, lactate can be detected by coating a thread with an enzymatic sensing material incorporating the enzyme lactate oxidase. A pH sensing thread is coated with polyaniline that responds to acidity, and so on. The array of thread sensors is integrated into clothing or a patch and connected to a miniature circuit module and microprocessor, with wireless capability to communicate with a smartphone.

“Sweat is a useful fluid for heath monitoring since it is easily accessible and can be collected non-invasively,” said Trupti Terse-Thakoor, formerly a post-doctoral scholar at Tufts University School of Engineering and first author of the study. “The markers we can pick up in sweat also correlate well with blood plasma levels which makes it an excellent surrogate diagnostic fluid….”                                                                                                  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200728113558.htm

Citation:

Sweat science: Engineers detect health markers in thread-based, wearable sweat sensors:  Real-time measurement of electrolytes and metabolites could be used to diagnose and monitor disease or track performance

Date:        July 28, 2020

Source:    Tufts University

Summary:

Engineers have created a first-of-its-kind, flexible electronic sensing patch that can be sewn into clothing to analyze sweat for multiple markers. The patch could be used to to diagnose and monitor acute and chronic health conditions or to monitor athletic performance.

Journal Reference:

Trupti Terse-Thakoor, Meera Punjiya, Zimple Matharu, Boyang Lyu, Meraj Ahmad, Grace E. Giles, Rachel Owyeung, Francesco Alaimo, Maryam Shojaei Baghini, Tad T. Brunyé, Sameer Sonkusale. Thread-based multiplexed sensor patch for real-time sweat monitoringnpj Flexible Electronics, 2020; 4 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41528-020-00081-w

 

Here is the press release from Tufts University:

Sweat science: engineers detect health markers in thread-based, wearable sweat sensors

Real-time measurement of electrolytes and metabolites could be used to diagnose and monitor disease or track performance

July 28, 2020

Mike Silver

Mike.Silver@tufts.edu

617.627.0545

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. (July 28, 2020)—Engineers at Tufts University have created a first-of-its-kind flexible electronic sensing patch that can be sewn into clothing to analyze your sweat for multiple markers. The patch could be used to to diagnose and monitor acute and chronic health conditions or to monitor health during athletic or workplace performance. The device, described today in the journal NPJ Flexible Electronics, consists of special sensing threads, flexible electronic components and wireless connectivity for real time data acquisition, storage and processing.

Typical consumer health monitors can track heart rate, temperature, glucose, walking distance and other gross measurements. But a more detailed understanding of the health, stress and performance of an individual is required for medical data collection or high performance athletic or military applications. In particular, metabolic markers such as electrolytes and other biological molecules provide a more direct indicator of human health for accurate assessment of athletic performance, workplace safety, clinical diagnosis, and managing chronic health conditions.

The patch device created by the Tufts engineers performs real-time measurements of important biomarkers present in sweat including sodium and ammonium ions (electrolytes), lactate (a metabolite) and acidity (pH).  The device platform is also versatile enough to incorporate a wide range of sensors cabable of tracking nearly every marker present in sweat. The measurements taken can have useful diagnostic applications. For example, sodium from sweat can indicate the hydration status and electrolyte imbalance in a body; lactate concentration can be an indicator of muscle fatigue; chloride ion levels can be used to diagnosis and monitor cystic fibrosis; and cortisol, a stress hormone, can be used to assess emotional stress as well as metabolic and immune functions.

Athletes could monitor a wide range of markers during physical exertion to aid in predicting performance peaks or declines during competition.

The ability to integrate the sensors into clothing is made possible by flexible threads coated with conductive inks. Different coatings alter the functionality of the threads; for example, lactate can be detected by coating a thread with an enzymatic sensing material incorporating the enzyme lactate oxidase. A pH sensing thread is coated with polyaniline that responds to acidity, and so on. The array of thread sensors is integrated into clothing or a patch and connected to a miniature circuit module and microprocessor, with wireless capability to communicate with a smartphone.

“Sweat is a useful fluid for heath monitoring since it is easily accessible and can be collected non-invasively,” said Trupti Terse-Thakoor, formerly a post-doctoral scholar at Tufts University School of Engineering and first author of the study. “The markers we can pick up in sweat also correlate well with blood plasma levels which makes it an excellent surrogate diagnostic fluid.”

Researchers tested the device on human subjects, monitoring their electrolyte and metabolite response during a maximum exertion exercise on stationary bikes. The sensors were able to detect variation in analyte levels as they moved up and down, within 5 to 30 second intervals – sufficient for most real-time tracking needs. The subjects included men and women with a range of physical conditioning, from physically active on a performance-tailored diet, to individuals who were not physically active and had no specific dietary restrictions. While the current study was not meant to determine a correlation between analyte readings and performance and conditioning, it did establish that the sensor was able to detect consistent patterns of analyte expression that could be used for future studies identifying these correlations.

“The sensor patch that we developed is part of a larger strategy to make completely flexible thread-based electronic devices,” said Sameer Sonkusale, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Tufts’ School of Engineering and corresponding author of the study. “Flexible devices woven into fabric and acting directly on the skin means that we can track health and performance not only non-invasively, but completely unobtrusively – the wearer may not even feel it or notice it.”

This work was supported by grants from the Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences (CABCS), a U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, Soldier Center (Cooperative Agreement W911QY-15-2-0001), the Office of Naval Research (N0014-16-1-2550), and the Government of India Department of Science and Technology, and Ministry of Human Resource Development (Scheme for the Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration).

Terse-Thakoor, T., Punjiyam, M., Matharu, Z., Lyu, B., Ahmad, M., Giles, G.E.,  Owyeung, R., Alaimo, F., Baghini, M.S., Brunyé, T.T., and Sonkusale, S. “Thread-based multiplexed sensor patch for real-time sweat monitoring” NPJ Flexible Electronics 2020 July 28; DOI: 10.1038/s41528-020-00081-w

###

About Tufts University

Tufts University, located on campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville and Grafton, Massachusetts, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the university’s schools is widely encouraged

Jason Heikenfeld wrote in the 2014 article, Sweat Sensors Will Change How Wearables Track Your Health: Your sweat may bring medical diagnostics to Fitbits and Fuelbands:

Using sweat to diagnose disease is not new. For decades, doctors have screened for cystic fibrosis in newborns by testing their sweat. And in the 1970s several studies tried using sweat to monitor drug levels inside the body. But in the early days of sweat diagnostics, the process of collecting it, transporting it, and measuring it was vastly more complicated than an ordinary blood test, so the technology didn’t catch on.

That’s about to change. Researchers have discovered that perspiration may carry far more information and may be easier to stimulate, gather, and analyze than previously thought.

My group at the University of Cincinnati, working with Joshua Hagen and other scientists at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Ohio, began five years ago to look for a convenient way to monitor an airman’s response to disease, medication, diet, injury, stress, and other physical changes during both training and missions. In that quest, we developed patches that stimulate and measure sweat and then wirelessly relay data derived from it to a smartphone. In 2013 the Air Force expanded on my group’s work and that of our collaborators by sponsoring the Nano-Bio-Manufacturing Consortium, in San Jose, Calif., created to accelerate the commercialization of biomonitoring devices such as sweat sensors.

 Perspiration Detective: This patch, developed at the University of Cincinnati, uses paper microfluidics to wick sweat from the skin through a membrane that selects for a specific ion, such as sodium. Onboard circuitry calculates the ion concentration and sends the data to a smartphone. The electronics within the patch are externally powered, as in an RFID chip.

My colleagues and I started by looking for something sweat could reveal that would be useful to a large number of people. We settled on monitoring physical fatigue—in particular, alerting athletes if they were about to “crash” because of overexertion or dehydration. This problem may sound mundane, but it is hard to predict. Even million-dollar athletes regularly leave competitions because of cramping, and warning of an approaching imbalance in electrolytes could prompt an athlete to take in fluids to avoid such a mishap….

Ultimately, sweat-sensing patches will measure multiple electrolytes, metabolites, and other biomarkers at the same time. Their designers will no doubt have to devise some clever algorithms to account for differences in the way various electrolytes, metabolites, and biomarkers migrate into sweat. But it will be worth the effort. Being able to measure multiple biomarkers might allow physicians to conduct cardiac stress tests on a treadmill without drawing blood. They could also measure the impact of drugs on the body so that dosages could be determined more precisely, as opposed to the crude estimates we use now based merely on age and body weight.

Sweat analysis will offer minute-by-minute insight into what is happening in the body

There is still work to do on the digital signal processing and algorithms needed to analyze the raw electrical measurements of biomarkers in sweat. But a physical-exertion sensor patch is a near reality, about to be tried on hundreds of people. If all goes well, we could have sweat-sensing patches—at least sensors for athletics—on the market in low volume next year. These do not have to go through a lengthy approval process with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because they are not meant to be used for diagnosis or treatment of disease….                                                        https://spectrum.ieee.org/biomedical/diagnostics/sweat-sensors-will-change-how-wearables-track-your-health

See, The future of remote ECG monitoring systems  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4987424/

Resources:

A self-healing sweat sensor                                                                                                       sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/12/191218153435.htm

Wearable sensors detect what’s in your sweat                                                                               https://news.berkeley.edu/2019/08/16/wearable-sensors-detect-whats-in-your-sweat/

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