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Sweat-Analyzing Tattoo Monitors Biomarkers Linked To Diseases

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 29 Jan 2024
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Image: The thin sweat monitor can be seen above the ring on this woman’s hand (Photo courtesy of UMass Amherst)
Image: The thin sweat monitor can be seen above the ring on this woman’s hand (Photo courtesy of UMass Amherst)

Several crucial biomolecules present in sweat can offer key insights into human performance and their potential connections to various diseases. However, the current methods for analyzing sweat are cumbersome and time-intensive, confined predominantly to laboratory environments. Typically, sweat analysis is conducted in clinical settings utilizing large, refrigerator-sized machines through liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy. This process involves collecting a sweat sample using a swab, followed by storage and analysis, making it a slow and cost-ineffective approach. To address these limitations, researchers are now in the process of developing a new sweat monitor that can be applied to the skin like a temporary tattoo, enabling on-the-spot assessment of crucial biomolecules. These novel sweat tattoos aim to provide individuals with deeper insights into their health and assist researchers in discovering early markers of diseases.

The research by the team at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (Amherst, MA, USA) involves a merger of two research tracks. The first track focuses on the development of a graphene-based tattoo that acts as a passive electrode for monitoring the body's electrical activity. The second track focuses on the study of rigid graphene-based biosensors. The research will be backed by a two-year, USD 200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop graphene-based tattoos. In the initial phase of their research, the team will focus on tracking cortisol levels. Cortisol is a biomarker linked to stress, stroke, Cushing's syndrome, and Addison’s disease, a rare chronic condition. The goal is to eventually broaden the scope of this technology to include other compounds, such as glucose, lactate, estrogen, inflammation markers, and more, once the technique is fully established.

“It’s almost entirely transparent, exceptionally conductive and it really goes into this perfect contact with the human skin. It’s imperceptibly self-adhesive—we don’t apply any adhesive, we literally transfer it on skin,” said research lead and assistant professor of biomedical engineering, Dmitry Kireev. “We want to have routine analysis [of these bio analytes] so we don’t only get information about people when they’re sick or when they have the problem, but before it happens.”

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