The painless wearable gadget can measure blood sugar, alcohol and muscle fatigue at the same time

A new wearable gadget that attaches to the arm can measure blood sugar and muscle fatigue in the gym as well alcohol levels to the pub.

Created in Californiathe prototype can continuously monitor three health statistics – glucose, alcohol and lactate levels – separately or simultaneously in real time.

The size of three poker chips stacked together, it is painlessly applied to the skin through a patch of microscopic needles similar to a velcro.

These needles take subcutaneous fluid readings and then send the data wirelessly to a custom smartphone app.

The researchers hope to commercialize the device, which could provide a single solution for diabetic patients in everyday life.

The device can be worn on the upper arm while the wearer spends the day at the gym or pub

The device can be worn on the upper arm while the wearer spends the day at the gym or pub

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The device patch of 25 microscopic needles, or microneedles, is each about one-fifth the width of a human hair.

Sticking these into a person’s arm causes no pain, the researchers say, as the microneedles barely penetrate the skin’s surface.

Several enzymes at the tip of the microneedles react with the lactate, glucose and alcohol present in the interstitial fluid – the fluid that surrounds the cells under the skin.

These reactions generate small electrical currents, which are analyzed by electronic sensors and communicated wirelessly to the smartphone app.

University of California San Diego (UCSD) engineers describe their device in an article published today on Biomedical engineering of nature.

“This is like a complete laboratory on the skin,” said study author Joseph Wang, professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego.

“It is capable of continuously measuring multiple biomarkers simultaneously, allowing users to monitor their health and well-being as they go about their daily activities.”

Most commercial health monitors, such as continuous blood glucose monitors for patients with diabetes, only measure a signal.

The problem is, it is missing out on information that could help people with diabetes manage their disease more effectively.

For example, monitoring alcohol levels is also useful because drinking alcohol can lower glucose levels.

Knowing both levels can help people with diabetes prevent their blood sugar from dropping too low after drinking.

Combining information about lactate – a biomarker for muscle fatigue, such as during exercise – is also useful because physical activity affects the body’s ability to regulate glucose.

The device works with a custom smartphone app, created by the research team, for data capture and visualization

The device works with a custom smartphone app, created by the research team, for data capture and visualization

The size of three poker chips stacked together, the new device is painlessly applied to the skin through a patch of microscopic needles similar to velcro. Here, the disposable microneedle patch detaches from its reusable electronic pouch

The size of three poker chips stacked together, the new device is painlessly applied to the skin through a patch of microscopic needles similar to velcro. Here, the disposable microneedle patch detaches from its reusable electronic pouch

“With our wearable device, people can see the interaction of glucose spikes or dips with diet, exercise and alcohol consumption,” said UCSD co-author Farshad Tehrani.

“This could also improve their quality of life.”

The device patch of 25 microscopic needles, or microneedles, is each about one-fifth the width of a human hair.

Sticking these into a person’s arm causes no pain, the researchers say, as the microneedles barely penetrate the skin’s surface.

Several enzymes at the tip of the microneedles react with the lactate, glucose and alcohol present in the interstitial fluid – the fluid that surrounds the cells under the skin.

These reactions generate small electrical currents, which are analyzed by electronic sensors and communicated wirelessly to the smartphone app.

In the trials, the wearable was tested on five volunteers, who wore the device on their upper arm while exercising, eating and drinking a glass of wine.

The micro-needles of the device barely penetrate the dermis, the inner layer of the two main layers of the skin

The device can be charged on a standard wireless charging pad, such as those used for Apple's iPhones

The device can be charged on a standard wireless charging pad, such as those used for Apple’s iPhones

It was used to continuously monitor the volunteers’ glucose levels at the same time as their alcohol or lactate levels.

The device’s glucose, alcohol, and lactate measurements closely matched measurements made by a commercial blood glucose monitor and breathalyser, as well as blood lactate measurements taken in the laboratory.

According to the team, each microneedle patch is disposable, so customers could potentially buy in bulk and stock up when needed when the device is marketed.

The wearable device connects to a reusable electronic case that houses the battery, electronic sensors, wireless transmitter, and other electronic components.

This allows you to charge the device on any wireless charging pad used for phones and smartwatches.

The researchers co-founded a startup company called AquilX to further develop the technology for commercialization.

The next steps include testing and improving the durability of the microneedle patch before it is replaced.

The company is also excited about the ability to add more sensors to the device to monitor patient drug levels and other health signals.

SCIENTISTS CREATE SMART BRACELET THAT TRACKS YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE

A bracelet that can monitor blood pressure whether standing, sitting, lying down or even deep asleep could help in the fight against hypertension.

The Aktiia home blood pressure monitoring kit, created by the company of the same name, comes with a cuff, a bracelet and a partner app, capable of constantly monitoring your blood pressure without a bulky device.

The Swiss company began work on blood pressure monitoring using optical sensors 15 years ago and was set to launch it on the market in the spring of 2021.

It makes use of signal processing, to make real measurements against a baseline, rather than using artificial intelligence to “predict” blood pressure levels.

Aktiia says her goal is “to improve cardiovascular health by providing patients and doctors with a deeper understanding of their blood pressure patterns.”

Read more: The smart bracelet that tracks your blood pressure