New Wearable Health-Monitoring Device Analyzes Your Sweat

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OK, who wouldn't want their very own perspiration analysis system?

Well, good news, my friends. In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature, researchers at Stanford University and UC Berkeley say they have created just such a gadget.

And naturally, you can wear it -- as a flexible head or wrist band.

The device works by marrying sensors that detect and analyze sodium, potassium, glucose and lactate -- elements found in sweat -- to a wireless circuit board of interconnected chips. The circuit board then beams its analysis to a smartphone or other device.

The new system's inventors say the technology could potentially issue alerts for problems like fatigue, dehydration and overheating, as well as open up new fields of research.


"With continuous, real-time monitoring of populations of people, we’ll be able to mine the collected data for patterns that can guide clinically oriented investigations and deliver personalized medicine,”said Stanford Genome Technology Center Director Ron Davis, who worked on the project with Sam Emaminejad, a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford and UC Berkeley, and Ali Javey, a UCB researcher in electronic materials.

The team tested the device by having individuals exercise for different durations and intensity.

"We were able to show how well the device worked," said UC Berkeley's George Brooks, a researcher in exercise physiology and metabolism who worked with the inventors. "A medical technician could get a reading on somebody instantaneously and then follow that, instead of taking a blood sample and then sending that to a laboratory and waiting several hours for a result."

So when you can buy it? Well, maybe not next Christmas. From Nature:

Javey says he has applied for patents on the technology. But there are still many challenges to overcome before you can expect to buy a sweat sensor incorporated into a wearable fitness band. For one thing, scientists aren’t used to working with such tiny quantities of fluid, and people aren’t always sweating. “Many applications will be outside athletics, where wearable bands or patches will have to locally stimulate sweat,” says [wearable technology researcher Jason] Heikenfeld. 

Also in the article, Javey cautions that sweat sensors are not as accurate as blood tests.

So for now, don't sweat the results. But maybe soon ...