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Portable sensors to decode our sweat



It is usually the blood tests that give an overview of our overall health. It is thanks to them that our general practitioner knows whether we are dehydrated or tired. However, for needles of phobic people, this invasive procedure can be a particularly unpleasant experience. A bite could very soon be just a bad memory. Indeed, according to a study published in the magazine on Friday, August 16 Advances in Science, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, are developing skin sensors that can detect the contents of our sweat. Our body temperature as well as our sodium, potassium, glucose and lactic acid levels … all of these important data of our metabolism can be detected in sweat.

Scientists have succeeded in making their apparatus a so-called roller coaster operation. The latter allowed them to print the sensors into a plastic sheet. They contain a microscopic spiral or a micro-fluid tube that sweat is removed from the skin. By monitoring the speed of sweat movement, the sensors report how the patient is sweating. Microfluids are also equipped with chemical sensors that can detect electrolyte levels such as potassium and sodium, and metabolites such as glucose.

Researchers placed sweat sensors in various areas of the volunteer's body, including the forehead, forearm, armpit, and upper back. They measured transpiration rates and levels of sodium and potassium in sweat while cycling in the gym.

Give advice to overweight athletes

They could observe how a local transpiration rate may indicate fluid loss during exercise. Therefore, studying your sweating rate could help by giving the overweight athlete some advice. "Before people did, it was time to collect sweat from their bodies and analyze it, so you couldn't really see dynamic changes with good resolution, using these portable devices that we can now gather continuous data from different parts of the body to understood for example how sweat loss can estimate body fluid loss, ”says Yin Yin Nyein Hinin, co-author of the paper.

Thanks to the roller coaster technique, they were able to produce large scale and low cost sensors. "Large-scale production demonstrates the potential to apply the sensor concept to transpiration in practical applications," says Jussi Hiltunen, who participated in the study. "

"There is no simple and universal link between sweating and blood sugar"

But, "the goal of our project is not just to make these sensors, but to start doing a lot of studies and see what transpiration tells us. I always say 'decode' the composition of sweat." explains Ali Javey, professor of technical engineering and computer science, lead author of the paper.

The researchers also used their sensors to compare the blood glucose levels of healthy and diabetic patients. Then they realized that a single measurement of glucose in sweat does not necessarily indicate a person's blood sugar. "There is much hope that non-invasive sweat tests could replace blood measurements for the diagnosis and monitoring of diabetes, but we have shown that there is no unique, universal correlation between sweating and blood glucose," says Mallika Bariya, a graduate student in science and engineering at UC Berkeley and another lead author of the study. And to conclude: "It is important for the community to know, in order to focus on individualized or multiparametric correlations in the future."

Diabetes is a very common disease in the world. According to WHO, the number of patients increased from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. The vast majority of patients have type 2 diabetes. The last result is the abuse of insulin in the body. It occurs most often due to overweight and sedentary lifestyles.

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