Compact Wearable “Lab on the Skin” Continuously Monitors Glucose, Alcohol, and Lactate

The machine may be worn on the higher arm whereas the wearer goes about their day. Credit score: Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics / UC San Diego

Think about with the ability to measure your blood sugar ranges, know should you’ve had an excessive amount of alcohol to drink, and monitor your muscle fatigue throughout a exercise, multi functional small machine worn on your pores and skin. Engineers at the College of California San Diego (UCSD) have developed a prototype of such a wearable that may repeatedly monitor a number of well being stats—glucose, alcohol, and lactate ranges—concurrently in real-time.

“This is like a complete lab on the skin.” — Joseph Wang

The multi-tasking machine is simply about the measurement of a stack of six quarters. It’s utilized to the pores and skin via a Velcro-like patch of microscopic needles, or microneedles, which are every about one-fifth the width of a human hair. Sporting the machine will not be painful—the microneedles barely penetrate the floor of the pores and skin to sense biomolecules in interstitial fluid, which is the fluid surrounding the cells beneath the pores and skin. The machine may be worn on the higher arm and sends information wirelessly to a customized smartphone app.

Researchers at the UC San Diego Center for Wearable Sensors describe their machine in a paper printed immediately (Might 9, 2022) in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

The machine may be worn on the higher arm and sends information wirelessly to a customized smartphone app. Credit score: Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics / UC San Diego

“This is like a complete lab on the skin,” mentioned heart director Joseph Wang, a professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego and co-corresponding writer of the paper. “It is capable of continuously measuring multiple biomarkers at the same time, allowing users to monitor their health and wellness as they perform their daily activities.”

Most industrial well being screens, resembling steady glucose screens for sufferers with diabetes, solely measure one sign. The issue with that, the researchers mentioned, is that it leaves out data that might assist individuals with diabetes, for instance, handle their illness extra successfully. Monitoring alcohol ranges is beneficial as a result of consuming alcohol can decrease glucose ranges. Understanding each ranges can assist individuals with diabetes stop their blood sugar from dropping too low after having a drink. Combining details about lactate, which may be monitored throughout train as a biomarker for muscle fatigue, can be helpful as a result of bodily exercise influences the physique’s means to manage glucose.

“With our wearable, people can see the interplay between their glucose spikes or dips with their diet, exercise, and drinking of alcoholic beverages. That could add to their quality of life as well,” mentioned Farshad Tehrani, a nanoengineering Ph.D. pupil in Wang’s lab and one among the co-first authors of the research.

Microneedles merged with electronics

The wearable consists of a microneedle patch related to a case of electronics. Totally different enzymes on the suggestions of the microneedles react with glucose, alcohol and lactate in interstitial fluid. These reactions generate small electrical currents, that are analyzed by digital sensors and communicated wirelessly to an app that the researchers developed. The outcomes are displayed in actual time on a smartphone.

Disposable Microneedle Patch

The disposable microneedle patch detaches from the reusable digital case. Credit score: Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics / UC San Diego

A bonus of utilizing microneedles is that they instantly pattern the interstitial fluid, and analysis has proven that biochemical ranges measured in that fluid correlate properly with ranges in blood.

“We’re starting at a really good place with this technology in terms of clinical validity and relevance,” mentioned Patrick Mercier, a professor {of electrical} and pc engineering at UC San Diego and co-corresponding writer of the paper. “That lowers the barriers to clinical translation.”

The microneedle patch, which is disposable, may be indifferent from the digital case for straightforward alternative. The digital case, which is reusable, homes the battery, digital sensors, wi-fi transmitter, and different digital elements. The machine may be recharged on any wi-fi charging pad used for telephones and smartwatches.

Recharging Multi-Tasking Microneedle Wearable

The machine may be recharged on an off-the-shelf wi-fi charging pad. Credit score: Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics / UC San Diego

Integrating all these elements collectively into one small, wi-fi wearable was one among the workforce’s largest challenges. It additionally required some intelligent design and engineering to mix the reusable electronics, which should keep dry, with the microneedle patch, which will get uncovered to organic fluid.

“The beauty of this is that it is a fully integrated system that someone can wear without being tethered to benchtop equipment,” mentioned Mercier, who can be the co-director of the UC San Diego Middle for Wearable Sensors.


The wearable was examined on 5 volunteers, who wore the machine on their higher arm, whereas exercising, consuming a meal, and consuming a glass of wine. The machine was used to repeatedly monitor the volunteers’ glucose ranges concurrently with both their alcohol or lactate ranges. The glucose, alcohol and lactate measurements taken by the machine carefully matched the measurements taken respectively by a industrial blood glucose monitor, Breathalyzer, and blood lactate measurements carried out in the lab.

Subsequent steps

Farshad Tehrani and fellow co-first writer Hazhir Teymourian, who’s a former postdoctoral researcher in Wang’s lab, co-founded a startup firm referred to as AquilX to additional develop the know-how for commercialization. Subsequent steps embody testing and bettering upon how lengthy the microneedle patch can final earlier than being changed. The corporate can be enthusiastic about the chance of including extra sensors to the machine to watch remedy ranges in sufferers and different well being alerts.

Reference: “An integrated wearable microneedle array for the continuous monitoring of multiple biomarkers in interstitial fluid” 9 Might 2022, Nature Biomedical Engineering.
DOI: 10.1038/s41551-022-00887-1

Funding: NIH/Nationwide Institute of Neurological Issues and Stroke

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