Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a skin patch that has the ability to continuously measure blood pressure and heart rate, among other things. An innovative portable device that could not only track patients with health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes, but also monitor them remotely.
Will the future of health care involve remote patient monitoring? While it seems obvious that physical contact is indispensable in a sector such as healthcare, no one can deny that remote monitoring appears to be a godsend in times of a global pandemic for some patients. In addition to telehealth, which has shown its usefulness particularly during periods of lockdown, new devices could make it possible to ensure continuous monitoring even in a context of social distancing.
Researchers at the University of California have taken a step in this direction by creating a skin patch, to be worn around the neck, which can not only monitor the blood pressure and heart rate of the wearer, but also measure glucose and lactate levels, and even alcohol and caffeine levels. This portable device would be the first to provide so many measurements at the same time in the human body, engineers claim.
"The novelty here is that we take completely different sensors and merge them together on a single small platform as small as a stamp. We can collect so much information with this one wearable and do so in a non-invasive way, without causing discomfort or interruptions to daily activity," explains Joseph Wang, a professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego and co-corresponding author of the study.
Checking several parameters simultaneously
Presented in the publication Nature Biomedical Engineering , the patch takes the form of a thin sheet of stretchy polymers, designed not to inconvenience the wearer, equipped with a blood pressure sensor and two chemical sensors -- one that has the ability to measure lactate, caffeine, and alcohol levels, and another that measures glucose levels. The researchers say the patch is capable of measuring three parameters at once -- a first.
Study participants wore the neck patch while performing various tasks such as riding an exercise bike, eating a high sugar meal, drinking an alcoholic beverage, or drinking a caffeinated beverage. The researchers were able to find that the patch's measurements matched those collected by several monitoring devices such as a blood pressure cuff, a blood glucose meter, or a breathalyzer.
"Finding the right materials, optimizing the overall layout, integrating the different electronics together in a seamless fashion-these challenges took a lot of time to overcome. We are fortunate to have this great collaboration between our lab and Professor Wang's lab. It has been so fun working together with them on this project," commented one of the co-authors of the study.
The team has already started working on a new, more advanced version of this patch, which would integrate even more sensors and be fully portable; which is not the case at the moment since the sensor must be connected to a power source to display its readings.