The painless wearable gadget can measure blood sugar, alcohol and muscle fatigue at the same time

A new wearable gadget that attaches to the arm can measure blood sugar and muscle fatigue at the gym and alcohol levels at the pub.

Created in California, the prototype can continuously monitor three health stats – glucose, alcohol and lactate levels – either separately or simultaneously in real time.

About the size of three poker chips stacked together, it is painlessly applied to the skin through a Velcro-like patch of microscopic needles.

These needles take readings of fluid under the skin, then send the data wirelessly to a custom smartphone app.

The researchers hope to commercialize the device, which could provide a one-stop solution for diabetic patients on a daily basis.

The device can be worn on the upper arm as the wearer goes about their day, whether at the gym or the pub

HOW IT WORKS?

The device’s patch of 25 microscopic needles, or microneedles, are each about one-fifth the width of a human hair.

Sticking them into a person’s arm does not cause pain, the researchers say, because the microneedles barely penetrate the surface of the skin.

Different enzymes on the microneedle tips react with lactate, glucose and alcohol present in the interstitial fluid – the fluid surrounding the cells under the skin.

These reactions generate small electrical currents, which are analyzed by electronic sensors and communicated wirelessly to the smartphone app.

Engineers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) describe their device in a paper published today in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

“It’s like a complete lab on the skin,” said study author Joseph Wang, a professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego.

“It is able to continuously measure multiple biomarkers at the same time, allowing users to monitor their health and well-being as they go about their daily activities.”

Most commercial health monitors, such as continuous glucose monitors for diabetic patients, only measure a single signal.

The problem with this is that it leaves out information that could help people with diabetes manage their disease more effectively.

For example, monitoring alcohol levels is also useful because drinking alcohol can lower glucose levels.

Knowing the two levels can help people with diabetes prevent their blood sugar from dropping too low after having a drink.

Combining information on lactate – a biomarker of muscle fatigue, such as during exercise – is also useful because physical activity influences the body’s ability to regulate glucose.

The device works with a custom smartphone app, created by the research team, for data capture and visualization

The device works with a custom smartphone app, created by the research team, for data capture and visualization

The size of three poker chips stacked together, the new device is painlessly applied to the skin using a Velcro-like patch of microscopic needles.  Here, the disposable microneedle patch detaches from its reusable electronic box

The size of three poker chips stacked together, the new device is painlessly applied to the skin using a Velcro-like patch of microscopic needles. Here, the disposable microneedle patch detaches from its reusable electronic box

“With our wearable, people can see how their glucose spikes or drops interact with their diet, exercise, and alcoholic beverage consumption,” said co-author Farshad Tehrani of UCSD.

“It could also improve their quality of life.”

The device’s patch of 25 microscopic needles, or microneedles, are each about one-fifth the width of a human hair.

Sticking them into a person’s arm does not cause pain, the researchers say, because the microneedles barely penetrate the surface of the skin.

Different enzymes on the microneedle tips react with lactate, glucose and alcohol present in the interstitial fluid – the fluid surrounding the cells under the skin.

These reactions generate small electrical currents, which are analyzed by electronic sensors and communicated wirelessly to the smartphone app.

In trials, the wearable was tested on five volunteers, who wore the device on their upper arm, while exercising, eating a meal and drinking a glass of wine.

The device's micro-needles barely penetrate the dermis - the inner layer of the two main layers of skin

The device’s micro-needles barely penetrate the dermis – the inner layer of the two main layers of skin

The device can be charged on a standard wireless charger, such as those used for Apple iPhones

The device can be charged on a standard wireless charger, such as those used for Apple iPhones

It was used to continuously monitor volunteers’ glucose levels simultaneously with their alcohol or lactate levels.

The glucose, alcohol, and lactate readings taken by the device closely matched readings taken by a commercial glucometer and breathalyzer, as well as blood lactate readings taken in the laboratory.

According to the team, each microneedle patch is disposable, so customers could potentially buy in bulk and stock up when they need them when the device goes to market.

The wearable connects to a reusable electronics enclosure that houses the battery, electronic sensors, wireless transmitter, and other electronic components.

This allows the device to be charged on any wireless charger used for phones and smart watches.

The researchers co-founded a startup called AquilX to further develop the technology for commercialization.

Next steps include testing and improving the life of the microneedle patch before it is replaced.

The company is also excited about the possibility of adding more sensors to the device to monitor patient drug levels and other health signals.

SCIENTISTS CREATE A SMART WRISTBAND THAT MONITORS YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE

A wristband that can track blood pressure whether you’re standing, sitting, lying down, or even sleeping could help with high blood pressure.

The Aktiia home blood pressure monitoring kit, created by a company of the same name, comes with an armband, a bracelet and a partner app, which can continuously track blood pressure without a bulky device.

The Swiss-based company started working on blood pressure monitoring using optical sensors 15 years ago and was ready to go to market in spring 2021.

It uses signal processing to take real measurements against a baseline, rather than using artificial intelligence to “predict” blood pressure levels.

Aktiia says its goal is “to improve cardiovascular health by providing patients and physicians with a better understanding of their blood pressure patterns.”

Read more: The smart bracelet that tracks your blood pressure

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