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09 Dec 2022 - 11 Dec 2022

‘Smart Necklace’ Biosensor Customized as Bioimplant Could Diagnose and Treat Brain Injury

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 25 Jul 2022
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Image: ‘Smart necklace’ biosensor may track health status through sweat (Photo courtesy of Pexels)
Image: ‘Smart necklace’ biosensor may track health status through sweat (Photo courtesy of Pexels)

Biomarkers are substances that can divulge a body’s deepest secrets: Everything from disease, infection and even evidence of emotional trauma can be found in a person’s bodily fluids, which include sweat, tears, saliva and urine. Now, researchers have successfully tested a device that may one day use the chemical biomarkers in sweat to detect changes in a person’s health. In addition to analyzing the composition of sweat, the researchers believe this sensor could one day be customized as bioimplants and used to detect neurotransmitters and hormones, which could help identify ion disorders in cerebrospinal fluid associated with secondary brain injury, or even lead to a new understanding of how the brain functions.

In a new study, a team of researchers from The Ohio State University (Columbus, OH, USA) demonstrated a battery-free, wireless biochemical sensor that detected the blood sugar – or glucose – humans excrete from their skin when they exercise. The team fabricated a “smart necklace” – complete with a functional clasp and pendant – which, once placed around their necks, was used to monitor the glucose level of study participants as they exercised. Instead of a battery, it works using a resonance circuit, which reflects radio frequency signals sent out by an external reader system.

After engaging in indoor cycling for 30 minutes, participants took a 15-minute break, during which they drank sugar-sweetened beverages, before resuming cycling. The researchers knew that glucose levels in the sweat should rise after drinking the sugary beverages – the question was whether this new sensor would pick it up. The results showed the sensor did track the glucose levels successfully, which suggests it will work to monitor other important chemicals in sweat. Additionally, this smart necklace requires only a minimum amount of sweat for the interface to work due to the miniaturized structure of the sensing interface.

Although it will be some time before a device similar to this study’s prototype will become available to the public, the researchers are already thinking about what will benefit the people who will need this potentially life-saving technology the most. Instead of using the bulky and rigid computer chips found in phones and laptops, the sensors are made out of materials that are ultra thin. This style of design makes the product highly flexible, protects the device’s functionality, and ensures that it can safely come into contact with a person’s skin. While the study notes that further miniaturization would make it more feasible for this and similar devices to become implantable, for now, the researchers imagine it as a lightweight device with simple circuit layouts that could be easily integrated into our daily lives.

“Sweat actually contains hundreds of biomarkers that can reveal very important information about our health status,” said Jinghua Li, co-author of the study and assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Ohio State. “The next generation of biosensors will be so highly bio-intuitive and non-invasive that we’ll be able to detect key information contained in a person’s body fluids.”

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