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Next-Generation Sweat Sensor Could Detect Health-Relevant Biomarkers

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 27 Feb 2023
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Image: Superhydrophobic biosensor could measure sweat vapors on the body (Photo courtesy of Penn State)
Image: Superhydrophobic biosensor could measure sweat vapors on the body (Photo courtesy of Penn State)

Biomarkers in sweat can help doctors in diagnosing health problems. Wearable sensors can monitor a person’s perspiration rate and gather information on the skin, nervous system activity and health conditions. However, not all sweat can be measured by the current sensors. Now, a newly-developed superhydrophobic biosensor could act as a diagnostic tool to detect these types of sweat.

Wearable sensors provide continuous, non-invasive tracking of sweat that can be perceived in its liquid form by a person, but differs from insensible, or vapor, perspiration. It is difficult to measure the loss of only water from the skin that is secreted at a much slower rate. Researchers at Penn State (University Park, PA, USA) have developed a prototype of a superhydrophobic sweat sensor that can measure vapor from insensible perspiration. The material - a superabsorbent hydrogel composite on a porous substrate sandwiched between two superhydrophobic textile layers – enables the permeation of sweat vapor while protecting the sensor from external water droplets of sensible perspiration. The sensor can be integrated with a flexible wireless communication and powering module that monitors sweat rates at different body locations on a continuous basis.

“Proof-of-concept demonstrations on human subjects showcased the feasibility to continuously evaluate the body’s thermoregulation and skin barrier functions,” said Huanyu “Larry” Cheng, James L. Henderson, Jr. Memorial Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics, who developed the sensor. “This enables the assessment of thermal comfort, disease conditions and nervous system activity and provides a low-cost device platform to detect other health-relevant biomarkers in the sweat vapor as the next-generation sweat sensor for smart healthcare and personalized medicine.”

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