Skin Patch: New Device Collects Sweat To Monitor Health [Video]

According to a new report, researchers have developed and now tested a new skin patch that collects sweat and can help monitor health. While a sweat-monitoring skin patch may sound like it is something out of the future, it appears to be very real.

The new research was published on the journal of Science Translational Medicine, where it can be read in full. The study describes how “wearable technology” is becoming a widespread tool among those who are interested in keeping tabs on certain aspects of their health and wellness (heart rate, calories, etc). The skin patch is described as a “flexible microfluidic device” that can be applied to the skin very easily.

The study also talks about how the skin patch is new technology in this field, going beyond anything that is currently out there. As Sarah Fecht of Popular Science explains, the devices that are currently available can’t do what the new skin patch may be able to.

“Current fitness trackers can tell you how many steps you’ve taken or whether you’ve met your target heart rate. But a new sweat monitor in development could keep track of whether you need to hydrate and replenish your electrolytes.”

Although it may certainly seem a bit complicated at first, a new YouTube video helps to explain the skin patch a bit better. In the video, John A. Rogers of Northwestern University, the lead author of the study, breaks down exactly how the sweat-monitoring skin patch actually works.

Rogers begins by talking about why sweat is interesting and important. He explains its easily accessibility, commenting on how it can be gathered “non-invasively.” He also discusses how it has “a lot of important biomarkers” that can tell us much about a person’s health. Rogers further discusses how the goal of his team was to create something that was “thin” and “skin-like” for the purposes of catching sweat and performing analysis of these biomarkers.

According to Rogers, the device, which has four circular spots that are able to change colors, provides for an ability to capture sweat and measure “sweat loss” as well as “sweat rate.” When wearing the device, sweat funnels into a set of small tubes and then into the circular spots. With the help of a smartphone, the skin patch can determine elements such as a person’s “glucose level,” pH, and “lactate concentration” during that particular workout session.

Writing for Northwestern University NewsCenter, Megan Fellman, Science and Engineering Editor at Northwestern University, explained that the “low-cost device” is only a bit bigger than the size of a quarter. Fellman further explains that the patch, which is to be placed on the skin of the back or forearm, is only meant for “one-time use.”

Fellman’s article further explains that the device was recently tested on two different groups of bicyclers in order to test and study its effectiveness. One of the groups being studied did their cycling inside an indoor fitness center. The other category rode in the long-distance El Tour de Tucson in order to create a “real-world” scenario. In the study, it is explained that even throughout “high-intensity” physical activity, the patch did not lose its adhesion or experience malfunctions.

The new skin patch could certainly create interesting opportunities in the future as well. Fellman brings up the possibility of using it in “disease diagnosis.” Jessica Berman of Voice of America discusses how although the groundbreaking skin-patch is currently geared towards athletes, the scope of its usage could very easily be broadened in the near future.

“The first-of-its-kind patch is aimed primarily at athletes, but the flexible electronics device will in all likelihood find a place in medicine and even the cosmetics industry.”

The original study on Science Translational Medicine described how the patch could also be used in military training. It further described how the patch might be able to be used to test other bodily fluids such as saliva and tears down the road as well.

[Featured Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]