Wearable Patch Made Out of Silk Monitors Sweat Biomarkers in Real Time

Silk patch monitors sweat biomarkers
Image credit: Tsinghua University via Science Advances

Scientists in China have developed a semi-flexible patch that can accurately measure various health biomarkers in real time, including glucose levels, lactate and potassium. Scientists at Tsinghua University in Beijing and Northwest University in Xi’an developed this patch which is made from a silk-derived carbon material. The patch can even detect certain diseases, according to the scientists.

The research was led by Yingying Zhang from the Department of Chemistry at Tsinghua University.

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Our sweat contains a suit of health-related biomarkers, including uric acid, ascorbic acid, metabolites such as glucose and lactate, and electrolytes. It is therefore an excellent choice for assessing health conditions non-invasively. In recent years, scientists in various institutions have developed sweat sensors that can monitor these biomarkers. However, many of these materials have limitations, such as poor stability, inferior electrical conductivity, and limited flexibility and wettability.

The scientists took inspiration from silk worm, which can weave a single, strong and uniform thread of silk up to 1.5 kilometers long while building its cocoon. “Compared with the common electrode materials, the flexible silk-derived carbon textiles show intrinsic hierarchical and porous mesh woven structure, facilitating good contact with reactants and efficient electron transfer. These unique features endow the silk-derived carbon textile with great potential to serve as the working electrode of wearable electrochemical sensor,” the scientists wrote.

Image showing a patch
Image credit: Tsinghua University via Science Advances

The team integrated six electrochemical sensors into the array and modified the electrodes with different functional materials so that they could selectively detect multiple biomarkers, reports Physics World. Finally, they integrated the patch with a signal collection and transmission circuit so that it can be conformably mounted on human body for sweat analysis.

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The researchers recruited five volunteers try out the patch worn on their upper arms while riding a stationary bike. The silk sensors were then connected to a smartphone via Bluetooth, giving the cyclists a readout of their health parameters. The results were accurate.

“The versatility, high sensitivity, and remarkable stability of the sweat analysis patch, along with its facile fabrication process, hold promising practical applications in real-time monitoring of human health,” the scientists concluded.

The study was published in Science Advances.

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Sam Draper
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)wearable-technologies.com.