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Painless Wearable Sensor Tracks Blood Sugar and More in Real-Time

A group of researchers from McMaster and the University of Waterloo have created a painless wearable sensor that can continuously track blood sugar, lactate levels, and other vital health markers and send the data to a smartphone or other device. The study was published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Painless Patch Tracks Blood Sugar and More for Weeks
The Wearable Aptalyzer patch gathers and sends information about markers in the fluid to a smartphone or other device, creating an ongoing record of real-time biomarker patterns. Currently, this information is only available through blood tests and lab work. Image Credit: McMaster University.

Using a variety of tiny hydrogel needles, the Wearable Aptalyzer pierces the skin just deep enough to reach the interstitial fluid beneath it but not far enough to reach blood vessels or nerves.

The patch collects and transmits data about the fluid's markers to a smartphone or other electronic device, enabling the creation of a continuous log of the rise and fall of important biomarkers.

Once developed for clinical use, it will enable health professionals to access current medical information that is only available retrospectively after blood tests and lab work.

Real-Time Information on Chronic and Acute Conditions

With the help of the new technology, tracking disease markers could be as easy as monitoring blood pressure, pulse, and other vital signs.

This technology can provide real-time information about both chronic and acute health conditions, allowing caregivers to act more quickly and with greater certainty when they see trouble.

Leyla Soleymani, Study Corresponding Author and Professor, Department of Engineering Physics, McMaster University

Soleymani also holds the Canada Research Chair in Miniaturized Biomedical Devices.

According to co-corresponding author Mahla Poudineh, an Assistant Professor and Director of the IDEATION Lab in the Waterloo Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Wearable Aptalyzer is a general platform that can measure everything from diabetes to cardiac biomarkers.

Continuous health monitoring doesn’t just help catch diseases early and track how treatments are working. It also helps us understand how diseases happen, filling in important gaps in our knowledge that need attention.

Mahla Poudineh, Study Co-Corresponding Author, Assistant Professor and Director, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo

A user would apply and remove the patch like a small bandage. It will be secured with nearly invisible, soft hooks, which will appeal to diabetics and others who test themselves by taking blood samples or by using solid monitoring patches with metal needles that pierce deeper and rely on less specialized electrodes. 

Poudineh said, “The greatest promise of the technology, though, may lie in its ability to produce weeks’ worth of meaningful results at a time, and to transmit data to electronic devices experts can read without sophisticated equipment.”

Early Warning System

In addition to its many other possible uses, the Wearable Aptalyzer can read and transmit data that signal cardiac events in real-time, making it a potentially useful tool for treating patients in emergency rooms and ambulances.

The researchers claim that the same technology can be easily modified to track the development and management of numerous chronic conditions, including cancer.

The technology has the potential to enhance the delivery of care in remote care environments, such as far-flung northern Indigenous communities from hospitals or during space missions.

Patients are more likely to get care on time when problems are detected early on using data from the Wearable Aptalyzer.

The following stages in bringing the technology to a wider audience are regulatory approvals and human trials. The scientists are looking for collaborators to aid in the technology’s commercialization.

The paper's lead authors are Waterloo's Hanjia Zheng and McMaster's Fatemeh Bakhshandeh. Together with Soleymani and Poudineh, their co-authors are Sadegh Sadeghzadeh from Waterloo, Irfani Ausri, Fatemeh Keyvani, Fasih Rahman, Joe Quadrilatero, and Juewen Liu, and Nicole Barra, Payel Sen, and Jonathan Schertzer from McMaster.

Journal Reference:

Bakhshandeh, F., et al. (2024) Wearable Aptalyzer Integrates Microneedle and Electrochemical Sensing for In Vivo Monitoring of Glucose and Lactate in Live Animals. Advanced Materials.

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