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Sweat shows promise for noninvasive health monitoring


Making a revolutionary biosensor takes blood, sweat and tears.

And Rock, of course.

University of Cincinnati Professor Jason Hickenfeld has examined the potential of these and other bio-fluids to test human health with tiny and portable sensors for the journal Teva Biotechnology.

Heikenfeld is a technology developer dressed in UC's Laboratory Device Lab and in Applied Sciences. His lab last year created the world's first permanent test instrument, which demonstrates sweat as effectively as blood, but non-intrusively and over many hours.

"Ultimately, technological advances in wearables are limited by human biology itself," the study said.

Surprisingly, many innovations in biosensors and sweat technology have been developed in Cincinnati. The first sugar glucose was commercialized in the area. The world's first insane inventor, Odorno, was a Cincinnati physician named Abraham Murphy.

"We have such a strong history in this area, it's really fascinating," Heikenfeld said.

Heikenfeld credits the hard work of his team on the success of his laboratory.

"We managed to get far and fast," said Heikenfeld. "We resonate with a certain type of student, and the more brilliant we have at the University of California, if we did not have talented students here, this technology would not exist, we would simply be talking theoretically about potential."

In the Nature Article, Heikenfeld identified four waves of discovery when it comes to testing human health. First, doctors began to paint and send blood to laboratories in an invasive, long-time and intensive work process that patients still go through today.

Beginning in the 1980s, researchers, including pioneering UC engineering professor Cheng Ehan, have developed a point-of-care laboratory test that allowed doctors to get immediate results. Instead of sending samples to the laboratory, doctors can test samples on their own using small, independent devices.

"Dr. Ahn was at the forefront of developing these devices in the treatment point," said Heikenfeld.

Now, Heikenfeld said, we are in the midst of a third wave – ongoing health monitoring with wearable devices like those developed at UC. These data provide data over time, so doctors can follow health trends rather than relying on a snapshot that provides a single blood test.

"It's very strong because it tells me I'm getting better? Said Heikenfeld.

Eventually, the field will see implanted devices in the body for long-term diagnosis or monitoring, he said. But the first researchers will need to create powerful sensors that can provide accurate information for a longer time frame.

"That's the big challenge," Heikenfeld said. "Sensors are reactive chemically themselves, so they do not last."

After examining the use of saliva, tears and interfaith fluids, Haikenfeld concluded Nature This sweat article holds the most promise for noninvasive tests because it provides similar information as blood and its rate of excretion can be controlled and measured.

In his Novel Device Lab at UC, Heikenfeld and his students created new wearable wear sensors the size of a band, which stimulates sweat even when the patient is cool and restful. The sensor measures specific analytics over time that doctors can use to determine how the patient responds to medication.

The sensors can be adapted to measure anything from drugs to hormones to dry, said Heikenfeld.

Last year, the lab created the world's first continuous monitoring sensor, which can record the same health information in sweat that doctors in generations tested in the blood. The milestone is outstanding because the continuous sensor allows doctors to track health over time to see if the patient is getting better or worse. And they can do so in a non-invasive manner with a tiny stain applied to the skin and stimulates perspiration for up to 24 hours at a time.

"This is the Holy Grail, for the first time, we can show the blood, here is the sweat data – and they work well together," Heikenfeld said.

Heikenfeld and his students published the findings of their latest experiments in December in the journal Lab. UC's study followed the way that subjects carry ethanol metabolism. The study concluded that sweat provided almost the same information as blood to measure the presence of drugs in the body.

The latest breakthrough at UC marked the culmination of more than seven years of research, he said.

"For drugs, we can use sweat to get an accurate measurement of blood concentrations," said Heikenfeld. "It's important that once we can measure concentrations of blood therapy, we can look at the dosage of drugs, and this can make the current dosage look like something from the Stone Age."

Cincinnati is home to several companies that turn technologies into prescription drugs, shipping and monitoring into commercial products. The list includes Assurex Health, Enable Injections and the Eccrine Systems of Heikenfeld, where he is founder and chief scientific officer.

Joint research author and computational biologist Tongli J. Zhang said such devices will help doctors provide personal care. Aang is a visiting professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of California College of Medicine.

"You do not give children the same medicine as adults, and we can also specify a dose based on the patient's weight," said Eng. However, some patients suffer from liver or kidney failure, and others may alternate 10 times faster, so the same dose may be ineffective in some patients and toxic in others.

Zhang said continuous sensors can change the treatments in basic ways.

"Personalized or personalized medicine becomes a bigger deal, we understand that it's important, if we can understand what's going on in the body, we can adjust the treatment accordingly," he says.

UC is at the forefront of developing new biosensors that Heikenfeld thinks will revolutionize the way we track disease and quality of life.

"UC continues to build on our rich regional history of revolution in diagnosis through this third wave of continuous biochemical sensing," he said.


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