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Electrochemical Sensor Monitors Urine Biomarkers of Neurological Diseases in Real Time

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 11 Mar 2024
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Image: The electrochemical sensor can be placed on the forehead to gain real-time data on neurological conditions (Photo courtesy of Penn State)
Image: The electrochemical sensor can be placed on the forehead to gain real-time data on neurological conditions (Photo courtesy of Penn State)

The levels of dopamine and tyrosine in the brain, a neurotransmitter and an amino acid, respectively, are known to influence human emotions and behavior. These levels are especially significant for individuals with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and hypochondria. Consequently, the non-invasive, real-time monitoring of dopamine and tyrosine levels in biological fluids is essential for the effective health monitoring and treatment evaluation of patients with these conditions. While existing methods like capillary electrophoresis, high-performance liquid chromatography, ultraviolet spectrophotometry, and fluorescence are used to measure these biomarkers, they rely on costly equipment and fail to offer continuous monitoring. Now, researchers have developed a highly sensitive and cost-efficient sensor that can more accurately track the concentration of dopamine and tyrosine in bodily fluids such as sweat or urine.

The new sensor, developed by researchers at Penn State (University Park, PA, USA), offers a promising tool for managing neurological diseases by providing instant data about a patient’s condition, thereby enabling more precise administration of pain medications like paracetamol. This innovation uses titanium dioxide (TiO2), recognized for its high biocompatibility and reactivity, as an effective sensing material to detect dopamine and tyrosine. Through the use of polymer-assisted deposition, the team has successfully fabricated a high-quality TiO2 film at an economical price. The film can be patterned via laser scribing and transferred onto flexible or stretchable materials like carbon cloth to serve as working electrodes in the electrochemical sensor. This sensor can then be integrated into practical applications such as skin patches or smart diapers.

Utilizing a skin patch or a smart diaper as a sensor offers several advantages over traditional blood tests, which cannot be performed continuously and only provide momentary data. Electrochemical detection in sweat can allow continuous monitoring of metabolites and drugs. Urine analysis, being a quick and convenient method, can significantly aid in the timely treatment of patients with limited mobility. The incorporation of a flexible electrochemical sensor with a wireless module into a disposable diaper has led to the creation of a "smart" diaper. This diaper facilitates the real-time, wireless analysis of dopamine levels in urine and wetting patterns, proving particularly beneficial for adults with restricted mobility, like the elderly or post-surgery patients. Moreover, due to the sensors' supple and thin design, the smart diaper ensures comfort and prevents skin irritation even after extended wear.

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