Home 5 Clinical Diagnostic Insider 5 Wearable Technology Noninvasively Samples, Analyzes Sweat Markers

Wearable Technology Noninvasively Samples, Analyzes Sweat Markers

by | Apr 10, 2015 | Clinical Diagnostic Insider, Diagnostic Testing and Emerging Technologies

While sweat-based testing dates back more than 50 years as a screening tool for cystic fibrosis, sweat has never gained significant momentum as a non-invasive alternative to blood, largely due to the limitations of fluid collection. But with technological advances in microfluidics, nanotechnology, miniaturized electronics, and cloud-based computing, Eccrine Systems (Cincinnati, Ohio) believes sweat holds great promise as the best noninvasive bodily fluid for the real-time assessment of robust biomarker data. “We recognize there are many well-known companies vying for the attention of broad consumer markets for wearable devices,” says Eccrine cofounder Robert Beech in a press release, regarding the company’s strategic position. “In direct contrast, our efforts are aimed at specialized and regulated medical and business markets that expect proof of data accuracy and chronological assurance, plus credible scientific studies related to physiological and economic outcomes.” The company was formed in 2013, but work on the sweat analysis platform began five years ago in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Ohio. The project was undertaken to identify a convenient way to monitor an airmen’s alertness, stress, and other physical changes including dehydration during long flight missions. The disposable electronic patch-sensor system […]

While sweat-based testing dates back more than 50 years as a screening tool for cystic fibrosis, sweat has never gained significant momentum as a non-invasive alternative to blood, largely due to the limitations of fluid collection. But with technological advances in microfluidics, nanotechnology, miniaturized electronics, and cloud-based computing, Eccrine Systems (Cincinnati, Ohio) believes sweat holds great promise as the best noninvasive bodily fluid for the real-time assessment of robust biomarker data. “We recognize there are many well-known companies vying for the attention of broad consumer markets for wearable devices,” says Eccrine cofounder Robert Beech in a press release, regarding the company’s strategic position. “In direct contrast, our efforts are aimed at specialized and regulated medical and business markets that expect proof of data accuracy and chronological assurance, plus credible scientific studies related to physiological and economic outcomes.” The company was formed in 2013, but work on the sweat analysis platform began five years ago in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Ohio. The project was undertaken to identify a convenient way to monitor an airmen’s alertness, stress, and other physical changes including dehydration during long flight missions. The disposable electronic patch-sensor system is a light, Band-Aid-like wearable that relies on paper microfluidics for biomarker assessment. Eccrine cofounder Jason Heikenfeld, Ph.D., also from University of Cincinnati, reports in an IEE Spectrum article in October 2014, that the technology can analyze many biomarkers: electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium, and calcium), metabolites (lactate, creatinine, glucose, and uric acid), proteins (interleukins, tumor necrosis factor, and neuropeptides), and small molecules (amino acids and cortisol). The paper in the patch wicks sweat in a “tree-root pattern” to maximize the collection area with minimum paper volume. The challenge, Beech says, is capturing the sweat quickly, getting it to the sensors, and then removing it, so that continuous assessment is possible. The microfluidic channels direct the sweat to a superabsorbent hydrogel (like the filler used in diapers), which pulls the sweat out of the paper and stores it. Heikenfeld reports that the patch can pull sweat along for several hours with the hydrogel swelling only 2 to 3 millimeters. Heikenfeld also notes that the patch performed as well as the benchtop electrolyte-sensing systems used by doctors to test for cystic fibrosis and that the patch can stay on for as long as a week. In late February Eccrine announced it had raised $1.5 million in seed funding. The company is pursing a “platform business model” that relies on “exclusive relationships with downstream partners across multiple market segments.” Beech says he sees large opportunities in areas such as medication adherence, clinical trials management, industrial safety, as well as medical diagnostics. Takeaway: Advances in technology are allowing researchers to reexamine the utility of sweat for biomarker assessment for continuous monitoring of physiological changes, including drug levels associated with medication adherence.

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