Smart Necklace Biosensor Monitors Glucose Levels Through Sweat

A device that might one day utilize the chemical indicators in sweat to identify changes in a person’s health has successfully undergone testing by researchers.

Smart Necklace Biosensor Monitors Glucose Levels Through Sweat.
Participants rode on stationary bikes to produce enough sweat for the study’s sensor to analyze. Image Credit: Getty Images

A team from The Ohio State University recently presented a wireless, battery-free biochemical sensor that could detect the blood sugar, or glucose, that individuals release from their skin when they exercise. The work was published in the journal Science Advances.

The Ohio State researchers created a “smart necklace” that included a working clasp and pendant and was worn around the participants’ necks to track their blood glucose levels as they exercised.

It operates without a battery by reflecting radio frequency signals from an external reader system using a resonance circuit. Participants cycled for a minimum of 30 minutes, had a 15-minute rest, and then resumed cycling after consuming sugar-sweetened drinks.

According to Jinghua Li, co-author of the work and assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Ohio State, the challenge was whether this novel sensor would detect the rise in sweat glucose levels that should occur after consuming a sweetened beverage.

The sensor did effectively track the glucose levels, according to the data, which implies that it will also be able to detect other significant compounds in sweat.

Sweat actually contains hundreds of biomarkers that can reveal very important information about our health status. The next generation of biosensors will be so highly bio-intuitive and non-invasive that we will be able to detect key information contained in a person’s body fluids.

Jinghua Li, Study Co-Author and Assistant Professor, Material Science and Engineering, Ohio State University

Biomarkers are materials that can reveal a body’s most intimate information:

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This Smart Necklace Soaks Up Your Sweat to Track Health

Viktor Gladkov via Getty

Viktor Gladkov via Getty

On hot days, when life seems to mimic a line in the chorus of Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz’ banger “Get Low,” our sweat could actually give us important information about how our bodies are doing.

In fact, researchers have gone to the windows and walls to demonstrate the potential of sweat. Unlike wearables that can only measure electrical currents at the skin’s surface (think FitBits and Apple Watches), a sweat-based biosensor could track the concentrations of electrolytes and sugar in the bloodstream and alert the wearer when their levels drop too low.

Now, engineers at The Ohio State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed battery-free sweat sensors that can measure several chemicals and give accurate readouts at a range of concentrations. Their sensors can be worn like a necklace or even implanted into the skin, where they would work throughout a user’s lifetime.

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“We hope that eventually these sensors can be seamlessly integrated into our personal belongings,” Ohio State engineering researcher and senior author Jinghua Li told Ohio State News. “Some of us may wear necklaces, some may wear earrings or rings. But we believe these sensors could be placed in something we all wear and that it could help us better track our health.”

Sweat biosensors are not a new idea for noninvasive monitoring, but most designs are bulky and require batteries that limit their lifespan. In the new study published on July 6 in Science Advances, the researchers combined typical biosensor design with electrical engineering principles to develop their sensors, which work in the same way as radios tuning into channels do. They then tested how well their flexible biosensors could measure dissolved

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