An article in IEEE Spectrum describes work by researchers at the University of Cincinnati and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratories. They started with the fact that signs of over-exertion and dehydration can be detected in a person’s sweat before the problem manifests itself in more severe symptoms, such as cramping muscles. This is important for athletes — especially multi-million dollar professional athletes — but is also a subject of concern for jet pilots who undergo extreme physical conditions during some aspects of flight.
The team uses microfluidics chips to pull sweat through microscopic channels and past tiny sensors that can measure the levels of certain ions in the fluid, such as sodium, chloride, and potassium. They have developed devices that contain a controller with Bluetooth Low Energy wireless communications, along with the tiny sensor chips.
In time, similar products could be used to detect other metabolites, such as glucose, which could eventually help in monitoring and treating chronic conditions such as diabetes. They could help diagnose diseases such as cystic fibrosis, and if capable of detecting certain bio-markers at small enough levels, they could even provide early detection of cancer, trauma, or infection elsewhere in the body.