“The novelty here is to use completely different sensors and merge them into a single small platform as small as a stamp.” Professor Joseph Wang, a professor of nanoengineering at the University of California, San Diego, and co-author of the study, said. “We can collect so much information with this wearable in a non-invasive way without causing discomfort or interruption in our daily activities.”
The new patch is the result of two pioneering efforts at the UC San Diego Wearable Sensor Center, directed by Wang. Wang’s lab is developing wearables that can simultaneously monitor multiple signals (chemical, physical, electrophysiological) in the body. In Sheng Xu’s lab, a professor of nanoengineering at the University of California, San Diego, researchers are developing soft, stretchy electronic skin patches that can monitor deep blood pressure in the body. Together, the researchers have created the first flexible, stretchable wearable device that combines chemical sensing (glucose, lactate, alcohol, caffeine) with blood pressure monitoring.
“Each sensor provides a separate image of physical or chemical changes. By integrating them all into one wearable patch, you can stitch these different images together to better than what’s happening in your body. Get a comprehensive overview. “ Xu, who is also the co-author of the study, said.
Patches for all transactions
A patch is a thin sheet of stretchable polymer that can adapt to the skin. It is equipped with a blood pressure sensor and two chemical sensors. One measures the levels of lactic acid (a biomarker of physical activity), caffeine, and alcohol in sweat, and the other measures the glucose levels of interstitial fluid. The patch can measure three parameters at once: blood pressure, glucose, lactic acid, alcohol and caffeine. “Theoretically, we could detect them all at the same time, but that would require a different sensor design,” said Yin, who holds a PhD. A student in the King’s lab.
The blood pressure sensor is near the center of the patch. It consists of a series of small ultrasonic transducers welded to the patch with conductive ink. When a voltage is applied to the transducer, the transducer sends ultrasonic waves into the body. When the ultrasound bounces off the arteries, the sensor detects the echo and converts the signal into a blood pressure measurement.
Chemical sensors are two electrodes that are screen-printed on a patch from conductive ink. Electrodes that detect lactic acid, caffeine, and alcohol are printed on the right side of the patch. It works by releasing a drug called pilocarpine into the skin to induce sweat and detect the chemicals contained in the sweat. The other electrode that senses glucose is printed on the left. It works by passing a gentle electric current through the skin to release interstitial fluid and measuring the glucose in the fluid.
Researchers were interested in measuring these specific biomarkers because they affect blood pressure. “We have selected parameters that enable more accurate and reliable blood pressure measurements.” Co-lead author Juliane Sempionatto holds a PhD in Nanoengineering. A student in the King’s lab. “Suppose you’re monitoring your blood pressure and you see spikes during the day and you think something is wrong. But biomarker readings tell you if these spikes are due to alcohol or caffeine intake. With this combination of sensors, you are that type of information. “ She said.
In the test, subjects wore patches around their necks while performing various combinations of the following tasks: Exercise on an exercise bike. Eat a high-sugar diet. Drink alcoholic beverages; drink caffeinated drinks. The readings from the patch were in close agreement with those collected by commercially available monitoring devices such as blood pressure cuffs, blood lactate meters, glucose meters, and drinking detectors. Caffeine level measurements in the wearer were validated with caffeine-spiked lab sweat sample measurements.
One of the biggest challenges in creating patches was eliminating interference between sensor signals. To do this, researchers needed to understand the optimal spacing between blood pressure and chemical sensors. They found that they worked well at 1-centimeter intervals, keeping the device as small as possible. Researchers also needed to understand how to physically protect chemical sensors from blood pressure sensors. The latter is usually equipped with a liquid ultrasonic gel to produce clear readings. However, the chemical sensor is also equipped with its own hydrogel, and if the liquid gel from the blood pressure sensor flows out and comes into contact with other gels, there is a problem that interference between the sensors occurs. Instead, the researchers used solid ultrasonic gels. It works like the liquid version, but I found it leak-free.
“Finding the right materials, optimizing the overall layout, and seamlessly integrating different electronics. It took a lot of time to overcome these challenges.” Co-lead author Muyang Lin holds a PhD in Nanoengineering. A student in Xu’s lab. “We are fortunate to have this wonderful collaboration between our lab and Professor Wang’s lab. It was a lot of fun to work with them on this project.”
The current prototype of the patch needs to be cabled to the benchtop machine and power supply. The team is already working on a new version of the patch and has more sensors. “We have the opportunity to monitor other biomarkers associated with a variety of diseases. We aim to add additional clinical value to this device.” Sempionatto said.
Work in progress also includes shrinking the blood pressure sensor electronics. At this time, you need to connect the sensor to the power supply and the benchtop machine to display the readings. The ultimate goal is to apply all of this to the patch and make it all wireless.
“I want to create a completely wearable system,” he said. Rin said.
Source and Top Image: University of California, San Diego
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