Non-Invasive Wearable Sensor to Detect Cortisol Levels in Sweat

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Cortisol, a steroid-based hormone, rises and falls in a day naturally and can increase in response to the stress but the available methods take time to get results from the lab. Abnormal levels of cortisol can relate to problems with adrenal glands or pituitary gland.

The researchers at Stanford University have invented a wearable patch which is capable to measure the cortisol levels present in sweat. This will help the doctors to easily diagnose adrenal and pituitary issues and know the tension levels in young, non-verbal children who are incapable of communicating with mental health experts.

The researchers developed a wearable non-invasive sensor, that measures the cortisol levels in sweat and thus can help people check the cortisol levels even at home. Onur Parlak, a researcher who was part of the study said, “We are particularly interested in sweat sensing, because it offers non-invasive and continuous monitoring of various biomarkers for a range of physiological conditions that offers a novel approach for the early detection of various diseases and evaluation of sports performance.”

The team developed a stretchy patch called MS-OECT that can be attached to the skin and it carries sweat passively in the reservoir. Another researcher in the team named Albert Salleo said, “I always get excited about a device, but the sweat collection system that Onur devised is really clever. Without any active microfluidics, he’s able to collect enough sweat to do the measurements.”

The reservoir has a cortisol-sensitive membrane on the top that fixes cortisol but at the same time allows charged ions available in sweat like potassium to pass through to it unless they are choked by the membrane-bound cortisol. If the amount of cortisol is more in sweat, the membrane allows only few ions to pass through it and an electrochemical senor tracks these ions that are stored in the sweat reservoir that indirectly counts the cortisol amount present in sweat.

It is better to use the sensor patch after exercise as the person sweats a lot which can give better results. Presently, the sensor provides expected results but researchers are trying to improve it to measure other genes present in sweat. Once the wearable patch will be able to measure several biomarkers present in sweat it can be helpful to provide in-depth health status of a person.

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