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Wearable microneedle sensors that track multiple biomarkers in interstitial fluid are finding their way into chronic disease monitoring and sample collecting for clinical laboratory testing

Wearable devices that replace finger sticks and blood draws for monitoring biomarkers of chronic diseases such as diabetes are the holy grail of non-invasive (or at least minimally invasive) technologies that collect specimens for clinical laboratory testing.

Now, in their quest for alternatives to invasive phlebotomy blood draws, engineers at the University of California San Diego’s (UCSD) Center for Wearable Sensors have added their own wearable device to the mix. The scientists developed a “lab-on-the-skin” multi-tasking microneedle sensor that monitors multiple biomarkers simultaneously, according to a UCSD news release.

“This is like a complete lab on the skin,” he said Joseph Wang, Ph.D. (above), Distinguished Professor of Nanoengineering at UC San Diego and Director of UCSD’s Center of Wearable Sensors, in a news release. “It is capable of continuously measuring multiple biomarkers at the same time, allowing users to monitor their health and wellness as they perform their daily activities.” UC San Diego’s microneedle patch for monitoring biomarkers of disease certainly would be popular with patients who must regularly undergo painful blood draws for clinical laboratory testing. (Photo copyright: UC San Diego.)

The UCSD engineers published their findings in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering,titled, “An Integrated Wearable Microneedle Array for the Continuous Monitoring of Multiple Biomarkers in Interstitial Fluid.”

Advantage of Monitoring Multiple Biomarkers in Real Time

While current glucose monitors on the market only measure glucose, the UCSD wearable device also monitors alcohol and lactate, providing other additional information to diabetics when engaged in activities that affect those biomarkers.

For example, UCSD’s microneedle sensor allows diabetics to monitor their glucose level when drinking alcohol, which can lower glucose levels. Additionally, monitoring lactate while exercising also could be beneficial since physical activity influences the body’s ability to regulate glucose.

“With our wearable, people can see the interplay between their glucose spikes or dips with their diet, exercise, and drinking of alcoholic beverages. That could add to their quality of life as well,” said Farshad Tehrani, a nanoengineering PhD graduate researcher in Wang’s lab at UCSD and one of the co-first authors of the study, in the news release.

UC San Diego's wearable microneedle patch
UC San Diego’s wearable microneedle patch (above) is about the size of a stack of six quarters and simultaneously monitors glucose, alcohol, and lactate levels continuously. It affixes to the skin through a patch of microneedles each about one-fifth the width of a human hair. The microneedles barely penetrate the surface of the skin to sample biomolecules in the interstitial fluid and are not painful. The quarter-sized patch is worn on the upper arm and transmits its data to a smartphone apps. The microneedle patch is disposable, and the reusable electronic case is rechargeable using an off-the-shelf wireless charging pad. (Photo copyright: Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics/UC San Diego.)

Other Microneedle Wearable Monitoring Patches

The quest for a painless alternative to in-patient blood draws for many clinical laboratory tests has been ongoing worldwide for years.

In “Researchers Develop ‘Smart’ Microneedle Adhesive Bandage System for Monitoring Sodium, Glucose, pH, and More,” DarkDaily reported on a proof-of-concept study conducted by scientists from Israel and China who developed a “smart” microneedle adhesive bandage that measures and monitors in real time three critical biomarkers that currently require invasive blood draws for medical laboratory tests commonly performed on patients in hospitals.

And in “Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis Use Microneedle Patch with Fluorescent Nanolabels to Detect Biomarkers in Skin’s Interstitial Fluid,” we covered how engineers at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University had developed a microneedle patch with plasmonic-fluor, ultrabright gold nanolabels that light up target proteins making the biomarkers up to 1,400 times brighter at low concentrations compared to traditional fluorescent labels.

While further research and validation of studies are needed before UC San Diego’s wearable microneedle sensor patch can be deployed to monitor chronic diseases, it is in good company. Diabetics and other suffers of similar chronic diseases can look forward to a future where they can monitor their health conditions in real time without the need for invasive blood draws and clinical laboratory testing.

Andrea Downing-Peck

Related Information:

An Integrated Wearable Microneedle Array for the Continuous Monitoring of Multiple Biomarkers in Interstitial Fluid

Multi-Tasking Wearable Continuously Monitors Glucose, Alcohol and Lactate

‘A Laboratory on the Skin’: UC San Diego Lab Works to Make New Wearable Health Sensors Part of Our Daily Look

Researchers Develop ‘Smart’ Microneedle Adhesive Bandage System for Monitoring Sodium, Glucose, pH, and More

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis Use Microneedle Patch with Fluorescent Nanolabels to Detect Biomarkers in Skin’s Interstitial Fluid

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