Scientists developing wrist band that can detect diabetes and other diseases

by Barbara Hewitt on April 19, 2017

Scientists in the United States have developed a wristband sensor that is set to revolutionise the way that diabetes and other diseased are diagnosed.

The wearable sensor collects sweat, measures its molecular constituents such as glucose levels and then electronically transmits the results for analysis and diagnosis via a smartphone.

Unlike old fashioned sweat collectors, the new device does not require sitting for a long time while sweat accumulates in the collectors and this is a huge step forward according to professor Carlos Milla of Stanford University’s school of medicine which has been working on the device along with the University of California Berkeley.

The device has a two part system of flexible sensors and microprocessors which stick to the skin, stimulate the sweat glands and then detect the presence of different molecules and ions based on their electrical signals.

The more chloride in the sweat, for example, the more electrical voltage is generated at the sensor’s surface. The team used the wearable sweat sensor in separate studies to detect high blood glucose levels which could indicate diabetes.

The sensors quickly evaluate the contents collected and beams the data by way of a cell phone to a server that can analyse the results. The test happens all at once and in real time, making it potentially much easier for children to use.

The researchers also pointed out that people living in underserved communities or in out of the way villages in developing countries, where conventional testing is unavailable, could benefit from a portable, self-contained sweat sensor. The sensor is also not only for diagnosis and monitoring as it could also be used to help with drug development and drug personalisation.

The team is now working on large scale clinical studies to look for correlations between sweat sensor readings and health and in the longer term is aiming to integrate it into a smartwatch format for broad population monitoring.

Ronald Davis, professor of biochemistry and of genetics at Stanford University explained that the research is more than just the development of a device as it is a new way of understanding health, one which depends on continuous monitoring and a better understanding of individual health measures and is an approach that could help prevent major illnesses in both individuals and populations.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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