Wearable, All-in-One Health Monitor: New Skin Patch Continuously Tracks Cardiovascular Signals and Biochemical Levels
This soft, stretchy patch can monitor the wearer’s blood pressure and biochemical levels at the same time. Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a soft, stretchy skin patch that can be worn on the neck to continuously track blood pressure and heart rate while measuring the wearer’s levels of glucose as well as lactate, alcohol, or caffeine. It is the first wearable device that monitors cardiovascular signals and multiple biochemical levels in the human body at the same time. “This type of wearable would be very helpful for people with underlying medical conditions to monitor their own health on a regular basis,” said Lu Yin, a nanoengineering Ph.D. student at UC San Diego and co-first author of the study published on February 15, 2021, in Nature Biomedical Engineering. “It would also serve as a great tool for remote patient monitoring, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when people are minimizing in-person visits to the clinic.”
Wearing the patch on the neck provides optimal readout. Credit: UC San Diego “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.” The new patch is a product of two pioneering efforts in the UC San Diego Center for Wearable Sensors, for which Wang serves as director. Wang’s lab has been developing wearables capable of monitoring multiple signals simultaneously — chemical, physical and electrophysiological — in the body. And in the lab of UC San Diego nanoengineering professor Sheng Xu, researchers have been developing soft, stretchy electronic skin patches that can monitor blood pressure deep inside the body. By joining forces, the researchers created the first flexible, stretchable wearable device that combines chemical sensing (glucose, lactate, alcohol and caffeine) with blood pressure monitoring. “Each sensor provides a separate picture of a physical or chemical change.
Patch of all trades: The patch is a thin sheet of stretchy polymers that can conform to the skin. It is equipped with a blood pressure sensor and two chemical sensors — one that measures levels of lactate (a biomarker of physical exertion), caffeine and alcohol in sweat, and another that measures glucose levels in interstitial fluid. The patch is capable of measuring three parameters at once, one from each sensor: blood pressure, glucose, and either lactate, alcohol, or caffeine. “Theoretically, we can detect all of them at the same time, but that would require a different sensor design,”