Breakthrough Wearable Sensor Helps Monitor Lithium Levels in People with Bipolar Disorder

Sensor lithium levels
Image: Creative commons

A team of researchers at the University of Surrey have developed a small, affordable wearable cotton sensor that can safely monitor lithium levels in patients with bipolar disorder. Dr Carol Crean, Senior Lecturer in Physical and Material Chemistry at the University of Surrey and post graduate researcher Mona Sweilam from the same institution detailed their research in the journal ACS Sensors.

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People with mood conditions such as bipolar disorder are prescribed antipsychotic drug Lithium. When given to patients, the drug must be carefully monitor as the wrong dose could be harmful. Initially, Lithium levels are required to be checked 5 to 7 days after the first dose, then it is followed by weekly checks until the levels stabilize between two doses, and after that levels need to be monitored every 3 months, reports University of Surrey.

The study showed that the miniature fiber-based sensors were able to quickly and precisely detect lithium levels – from clinically effective to toxic levels and were able to detect lithium concentration in the blood even with the presence of high sodium levels.

The research paper calls this a breakthrough in checking lithium levels and also indicates that the new sensors are clinically reliable in bringing to attention toxic concentration limits.

Sensor lithium levels
Image: Creative commons

“We believe that our new sensors will help many people across the world living with mood disorders, such as bipolar and depression. Our sensors will give those who are receiving treatment the opportunity to monitor their lithium levels with a stable and easy to use wearable sensor. They will give people a real alternative to the currently available invasive blood samples, making monitoring their lithium levels as easy as putting on a T-shirt,” said Dr. Crean.

Bipolar disorder affects around 5.7 million (2.6% of the population) American adults in any given year. An estimated 16.2 million adults in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode; this number represents 6.7 percent of all U.S. adults.

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After undergoing a variety of tests, the sensors might replace the sensors currently available in the market.

Dr. Crean explains: “We strongly hope the discovery of these sensors is going to help millions of people worldwide, those diagnosed with mood disorders. These sensors will eliminate the need to use invasive means to get blood samples from depression and bipolar patients. Top on that, they will offer a reliable alternative to the invasive methods currently depended upon.”

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Sam Draper () is Online Editor at WT | Wearable Technologies specialized in the field of sports and fitness but also passionated about any new lifestyle gadget on the market. Sam can be contacted at press(at)