“Horses sweat, men perspire, and women glow.” This holdover from the Victorian Era may split hairs on behalf of social sensibilities at the expense of science, but the fact remains that human skin secrets fluids that is much more than just salty water. It is an ever-changing chemical soup that can reveal all sorts of useful information about a body’s health and condition.
Eccrine Systems is a company that was created to commercialize research that was conducted at the University of Cincinnati and the Air Force Research Labs at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. The business model is to develop the intellectual property and create practical applications that will then be licensed to partner companies that will bring products to market. One key advantage of the Eccrine Systems technology is that it can monitor many different chemicals in real time, in a single, self-contained device. The company already has a $3.96 million contract from the Air Force Laboratories, and just closed a $5.5 million Series A funding round.
Sweat has a number of advantages as a source for biomarker data. It is produced by the skin nearly all over the body. It does not require invasive sampling, so the skin does not have to be pierced (which could increase the chance of infection). Sweat is more consistent; saliva and breath samples can be altered by other factors such as food that has been eaten recently. And it can be used for a wide range of chemicals, from metabolic byproducts to traces of pharmaceuticals, as well as environmental pollutants such as heavy metals or pesticides.
It’s conceivable that sweat monitoring could become a key part of wearable devices and smart garments, providing us with much more data about our bodies. This could lead to earlier detection and more effective treatment of disease and chronic conditions.