This Wearable "SweatSenser" Can Pick Up Signs of an Infection by Monitoring for Biomarkers in Sweat

Building on earlier work on the same hardware platform, Prof. Prasad and colleagues have proven the core diagnostic concept.

Bioengineers from the University of Texas at Dallas, working with commercial venture EnLiSense, have published confirmation that their jointly-developed wearable "SweatSenser" can offer early warnings of COVID-19 and flu infections — by monitoring biomarkers in the wearer's sweat.

"We have built a technology to unlock and explore the latest frontier in sweat diagnostics," claims Shanlini Prasad, PhD, professor and head of bioengineering at the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. "This sweat-based, wearable technology from EnLiSense is truly transformational in that it can measure and report human host response messenger molecules associated with inflammation and infection in a real-time and continuous manner."

The team's work focused on two key biomarkers — interferon-gamma-inducible protein (IP-10) and tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) — known to be indicative of a cytokine storm, which occurs during serious infections, and whether they could be picked up by their wearable device: the SweatSenser.

"Our work is pioneering since, until this date, it was unclear whether these molecules were present in sweat," Prasad explains of the key breakthrough. "We established that our low-volume passive sweat technology is indeed able to measure these biomarkers."

The passive SweatSenser, which operates on small volumes of sweat without the need for the wearer to engage in physical exertion, is able to offer all-day monitoring through once-daily sensor strip replacements. While it can indicate an infection, however, it's not capable of determining the cause — for that, the patient would need to undergo a traditional test such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to identify the presence of a specific pathogen.

This isn't the first time EnLiSense's wearable sensor technology has been put to use in this fashion: Late last year the same team showed how the SweatSenser could be used to track cortisol and glucose levels non-invasively; its use for detecting cytokine storms associated with COVID-19 infections, meanwhile, was proposed in April that same year.

The team's work has been published under open-access terms in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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