Skin patch reads both cardiovascular and metabolic biomarkers

UC San Diego researchers create the first wearable device for simultaneous monitoring of haemodynamic and biochemical biomarkers.

Biohackers take note! Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a new wearable device that can continuously track biomarkers including blood pressure and heart rate, while simultaneously measuring the wearer’s glucose levels, as well as lactate (a biomarker of physical exertion), alcohol or caffeine levels.

With biohacking on the rise, interest in technologies that can track multiple biomarkers to help monitor and improve our healthspan is red hot. UC San Diego’s soft, stretchy skin patch is designed to be worn on the neck, and is the first wearable device to monitor both cardiovascular signals and multiple biochemical levels in the human body at the same time.

Longevity.Technology: From CGM devices to activity trackers, the ability to continually measure many biomarkers relevant to longevity has been propelled by developments in the wearables sector. This project at UC San Diego is another indicator that we will soon all be tracking key indicators of our health in a way that was once only possible in medical facilities.

The device is the focus of new paper published this week in Nature Biomedical Engineering, and is claimed to have potential benefits in a wide range of areas, including the management of high blood pressure and diabetes.

Skin patch neck
Wearing the patch on the neck provides optimal readout.

“This type of wearable would be very helpful for people with underlying medical conditions to monitor their own health on a regular basis,” said nanoengineering PhD student Lu Yin, co-first author of the study. “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.”

The current prototype of 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,” added Yin.

The prototype is connected with wires, but researchers are already at work on a new version of the patch with more sensors, shrinking the electronics for the blood pressure sensor and with the goal of making it wireless.

wireless patch prototype
The current prototype of the patch is wired, with the goal being to make it wireless.

“There are opportunities to monitor other biomarkers associated with various diseases,” said co-first author Juliane Sempionatto, also a nanoengineering PhD student. “We are looking to add more clinical value to this device.”

“We want to make a complete system that is fully wearable,” added Lin.

The new patch is a combination of two research projects in the UC San Diego Center for Wearable Sensors. The lab of Joseph Wang, professor of nanoengineering, has been developing wearables capable of monitoring multiple chemical, physical and electrophysiological signals simultaneously in the body.

“ … one wearable patch allows us… to get a more comprehensive overview of what’s going on in our bodies … ”

“The novelty here is that we take completely different sensors and merge them together on a single small platform as small as a stamp,” said Wang. “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.”

And in the lab of 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,” said Xu. “Integrating them all in one wearable patch allows us to stitch those different pictures together to get a more comprehensive overview of what’s going on in our bodies.”

Images courtesy of the University of California San Diego