A new flexible sensor applied to the skin for the purpose of sweat analysis may pave the way for widespread diagnosis and monitoring of disease without the need for blood collection, researchers say. Other devices based for sweat diagnostics required that wearers participate in exercise to induce sweat. The new device uses drugs to stimulate local sweat glands through the skin to produce perspiration.

Researchers from the Bionics Research Center at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology and Northwestern University jointly announced the development the device.

Sweat contains biomarkers that can monitor various health conditions, from diabetes to genetic disorders.

The research team developed a flexible device capable of delivering drugs to sweat glands by applying a current to a hydrogel containing drugs. The small and soft device can be easily attached to the skin. Sweat induced by the drug is collected in microfluidic channels within the device and analyzed for biomarkers using biosensors. This enables the analysis of biomarkers in sweat, reducing the need for cumbersome hospital visits for testing and lowering the risk of biomarker contamination during testing, thereby increasing accuracy.

The device developed by the research team was attached to infants with cystic fibrosis, and the chloride concentration, a biomarker in sweat, was confirmed. The results were consistent with those obtained from traditional analysis methods using sweat collected in hospitals, with an accuracy of over 98%. Additionally, the stability of the device on the skin was ensured by confirming skin temperature and pH values.

Researchers believe the technology can be used not only to induce sweat but also for localized delivery of drugs to treat skin conditions or wounds.



A child with the traditional wired device attached to the left arm and the developed device adhered to the right arm, delivering drugs to stimulate sweat glands. CREDIT: Korea Institute of Science and Technology