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New wearable gadget can monitor blood sugar, alcohol levels and muscle fatigue

A prototype of the device, developed by engineers in California, acts like a “complete lab on the skin” by monitoring several health statistics at once, in real time.

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By Gwyn Wright via SWNS

A new wearable gadget can monitor blood sugar and alcohol levels as well as muscle fatigue during workouts.

The tiny monitor, which is about the size of a stack of six pennies can be worn on the skin.

A prototype of the device, developed by engineers in California, acts like a “complete lab on the skin” by monitoring several health statistics at once, in real time.

The monitor is applied to the skin through a Velcro-like patch of microscopic needles which are about one fifth the width of a human hair.

It can be worn on the upper arm and sends the data wirelessly to a smartphone app.

Wearing the device is not painful, say scientists. The needles only just penetrate the skin’s surface enough to sense biomolecules in interstitial fluid, which surrounds the cells beneath the skin.

The wearable patch is connected to a case of electronics.

Different enzymes on the tips of the microneedles react with glucose, alcohol and lactate in interstitial fluid.

These reactions generate small electric currents, which are analysed by electronic sensors and communicated wirelessly to the app.

The results are then displayed in real time on a smartphone.

The microneedle patch is disposable and can be detached from the electronic case for easy replacement.

The reusable electronic case houses the battery, electronic sensors, wireless transmitter and other electronic components.

The device can be recharged on any wireless charging pad used for phones and smartwatches.

It 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 gadget continuously monitored the volunteers’ glucose levels simultaneously with either their alcohol or lactate levels.

Glucose, alcohol and lactate measurements taken by the device closely matched the measurements taken respectively by a commercial blood glucose monitor, breathalyzer, and blood lactate measurements performed in the lab.

Most health monitors on the market, such as continuous glucose monitors for people with diabetes, only watch for one signal.

The researchers from the University of California San Diego say the problem with that is that it leaves out information that could help diabetics to better manage their condition.

Monitoring alcohol levels is useful because drinking alcohol can lower glucose levels, which means knowing both levels can help people with diabetes prevent their blood sugar from dropping too low after having a drink.

Combining information about lactate, which can be monitored during exercise as a biomarker for muscle fatigue, is also useful because physical activity influences the body’s ability to regulate glucose.

The study’s co-corresponding author Professor Joseph Wang said: “This is like a complete lab on the skin.

“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.”

Study co-first author Dr. Farshad Tehrani said: “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.”

The study’s co-corresponding author Dr. Patrick Mercier said: “We’re starting at a really good place with this technology in terms of clinical validity and relevance.

“That lowers the barriers to clinical translation.

“The beauty of this is that it is a fully integrated system that someone can wear without being tethered to benchtop equipment.”

Dr. Tehrani and fellow co-first author Dr. Hazhir Teymourian co-founded the start-up AquilX to further develop the technology so it is ready for market.

The findings were published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

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