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Efficient Sweat Monitoring Device Delivers Drug Stimulation

In a study published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics, Dr. Kim Joohee from the Bionics Research Center at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST, Director Oh Sangrok) and Professor John A. Rogers from Northwestern University collaborated to create a sweat monitoring device that delivers drug stimulation through the skin without physical activity.

Efficient Sweat Monitoring Device Delivers Drug Stimulation
Illustration and photograph of the device capable of drug delivery for sweat induction and simultaneous monitoring of biomarkers in sweat. Image Credit: Korea Institute of Science and Technology

Biomarkers found in sweat can be used to track several diseases, including genetic diseases and diabetes. Users choose sweat samples over blood collection because it is a painless procedure. However, to collect sufficient hormones or nutrients for analysis, vigorous physical activity was previously needed to induce sweat. This approach presented difficulties for people with restricted mobility.

This new device distributes drugs that activate sweat glands through the skin, in contrast to earlier techniques that used exercise to promote sweating.

The research team created a flexible device that uses a current to deliver drugs to a hydrogel that contains drugs to sweat glands. This little, flexible gadget is easy to affix to the skin. Drug-induced sweat is gathered in microfluidic channels inside the device, and biosensors are used to identify biomarkers.

This facilitates the analysis of biomarkers in sweat, decreasing the need for laborious hospital trips for testing. It also lowers the possibility that biomarkers could get contaminated during testing, boosting testing accuracy.

This device was attached to infants with cystic fibrosis. Chloride content, a biomarker in sweat, was confirmed. With a precision of more than 98 %, the outcomes matched those from conventional analytical techniques employing sweat collected in hospitals. Skin temperature and pH readings were also verified to guarantee the device's stability on the skin.

Since the majority of cystic fibrosis symptoms appear in infancy, it is essential to continuously evaluate the disease’s development and physical state. The device makes it easy to monitor children at home, lessening the emotional and physical strain on both the patients and the caretakers.

This newly developed device also advances the field of non-invasive sweat-based disease monitoring in healthy individuals. Additionally, the technique of administering drugs through the skin can be used to speed up healing by increasing drug delivery in specific locations like wounds or skin problems, in addition to inducing sweating.

Through two years of collaborative research with Northwestern University, we have not only addressed the limitations of existing methods for inducing sweat but also achieved success in clinical research, bringing us one step closer to commercialization.

Dr. Kim Joohee, Director, Bionics Research Center, Korea Institute of Science and Technology

Professor John A. Rogers added, “We plan to conduct large-scale clinical studies and commercialization, including adults, in the future.

The Ministry of Science and ICT (Minister Lee Jong-ho) funded the Outstanding Young Researcher Program (RS-2023-00211342), allowing KIST to conduct this research. The study’s results are available online in the current edition of the international journal Biosensors & Bioelectronics (IF 12.6).

Journal Reference:

Kim, J., et al. (2024) A skin-interfaced, miniaturized platform for triggered induction, capture and colorimetric multicomponent analysis of microliter volumes of sweat. Biosensors and Bioelectronics.doi:10.1016/j.bios.2024.116166

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