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On-Skin, Wearable Bioelectronic Device Could Aid Early Detection of COVID-19

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 25 Feb 2021
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Image: On-Skin, Wearable Bioelectronic Device Could Aid Early Detection of COVID-19 (Photo courtesy of University of Missouri)
Image: On-Skin, Wearable Bioelectronic Device Could Aid Early Detection of COVID-19 (Photo courtesy of University of Missouri)
A wearable, bioelectronic device could wirelessly transmit a person’s vital signs - potentially providing critical information for early detection of health issues such as COVID-19 or heart disease - to a healthcare provider, eliminating the need for an in-person visit while also saving lives.

University of Missouri (Columbia, MO, USA) engineers are advancing the commercial market for wearable bioelectronics by developing a large-scale manufacturing plan for a customizable device capable of simultaneously tracking multiple vital signs such as blood pressure, heart activity and skin hydration. The project has received a USD 500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to plan for large-scale manufacturing of an on-skin, wearable bioelectronic device. The grant builds on some of the engineers’ previous work demonstrating a proof of concept of a small patch that works as a breathable and waterproof on-skin electronic device with passive cooling capabilities. Now, the team is working to increase production of that concept device for large-scale distribution.

Existing wearable devices usually consist of bioelectronics supported by a flexible, solid material - typically plastic or silicone - called a substrate. The engineers aim to optimize the material to be soft, breathable, comfortable, lightweight and waterproof. Also, in order to mass produce the bioelectronic sensors, the team is researching how to print them directly onto the supportive material using a method called mask-free inkjet printing.

“While the biosensors for these devices have already been developed, we now want to combine them to mass produce a porous patch with multiple bioelectronic components,” said Zheng Yan, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering. “The components can also be customized to fit the individual health needs of the user.”

“In the future, if we want to be able to widely implement the use of wearable biomedical devices, due to the size of production it should have a low manufacturing cost,” added Yan. “Therefore, using this grant we want to determine how to achieve continuous, scalable fabrication of such devices in an effort to keep our production costs as low as possible and transfer those cost savings to the consumer.”

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