The eyes may be the window to the soul, but a substance as prosaic as sweat could provide a way to measure a wide range of hidden activities going on in your body. We tend to think of sweat as salty water (if we think about it at all), but the fact is that it is a complex soup of chemicals, which presumably can be used as biomarkers to monitor disease and other important health factors.
Researchers at Stanford Medicine have created a wearable device that samples and processes sweat. In collaboration with scientists from the University of California-Berkeley, they developed a wrist-worn device that stimulates the production of sweat. Sensors then detect the presence of different chemical compounds, and the data is analyzed by on-board processors. The system can detect chloride which is an important diagnostic indicator for cystic fibrosis. The device transmits results wirelessly to a smartphone, making it much easier for patients compared with traditional clinical testing procedures.
The researchers also believe that the system can be used to detect glucose levels that correlate with blood glucose levels, along with potassium, sodium, and lactate. These biomarkers could turn out to be useful in identifying and diagnosing conditions before symptoms become noticeable. The data could also support decisions about personalized medicine, providing data that can guide the selection of the best drug treatments for a specific individual based on their body chemistry. At this point, the device is still a research project, but it could have far-reaching applications in the future.