COLUMBUS, Ohio — Many people use their phones and watches to track their heart rate and other measures of health while exercising. Now, a new smart device might be on the horizon. Researchers from The Ohio State University have developed a “smart necklace” biosensor which can monitor glucose levels through a person’s sweat.
In the future, researchers hope this device could use the chemical biomarkers in sweat to detect various changes in a person’s health.
The smart necklace, which comes complete with a functional clasp and pendant, uses a resonance circuit, instead of a battery. The resonance circuit reflects radio frequency signals sent out by an external reader system.
For the study, researchers had participants cycle indoors for 30 minutes and then take a 15-minute break. During the break, the group consumed sugar-sweetened drinks before cycling again.
Researchers say the sensor in the smart necklace successfully tracked glucose levels, suggesting it can successfully monitor other important chemicals in sweat as well. Moreover, the device only needed a minimal amount of sweat for the sensor’s interface to work.
“Sweat actually contains hundreds of biomarkers that can reveal very important information about our health status,” says Jinghua Li, study co-author and assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Ohio State, in a university release. “The next generation of biosensors will be so highly biointuitive and noninvasive that we’ll be able to detect key information contained in a person’s body fluids.”
What can a person’s bodily fluids tell us?
A person’s bodily fluids, including sweat, tears, saliva, and urine, can divulge if they are suffering from disease, infection, or even emotional trauma. Researchers believe they could one day customize the biosensor like a bio-implant and use it to detect neurotransmitters and hormones. Li says this would help identify ion disorders in spinal fluid associated with secondary brain injury, or even lead to a new understanding of how the brain functions.
Li says, even though it will take some time before a similar device will be available to the public, she is pondering what will benefit the people who will need this potentially life-saving technology the most.
The smart necklace’s sensors are made out of ultra-thin materials. The device’s design makes the product highly flexible, protects its functionality, and ensures that is can safely come into contact with a person’s skin.
Li says she imagines the smart necklace as a lightweight device that people can easily integrate into their daily lives.
“We hope that eventually these sensors will be seamlessly integrated into our personal belongings,” explains Li. “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.”
The study is published in the journal Science Advances.