UC San Diego Unveils Prototype of Multitasking Wearable Health Sensor

Researchers at the University of California San Diego’s Center for Wearable Sensors, recently unveiled a wearable for monitoring glucose, lactate and alcohol. A prototype of the compact device worn on the skin shows it can multitask in measuring blood sugar levels, detecting excessive alcohol intakes and at the same time, keep track of muscle fatigue continuously all at the same time.

Wearing the device known as “Lab on the Skin”, is reportedly not painful as it is only as small as a stack of 6 quarters. It attaches to the skin by way of a Velcro-like patch of microscopic needles. Each microneedle making up the patch is only about ⅕ of the width of a strand of human hair.

How Does UC’s “Lab on the Skin” Work?

Through the microneedles, the patch senses the biomolecules carried by the fluid surrounding the cells right next to the skin of the upper arm. Although barely penetrating the skin, the wearable is capable of collecting and sending data wirelessly to a proprietary smartphone app.

UC San Diego nanoengineering professor Joseph Wang, who is also the Director of the Wearable Sensors Center, describes the device as one that functions as a complete lab that works through the skin. Capable of continuously and simultaneously recording and measuring several biomarkers, wearers can have a way of monitoring their health condition while performing their day to day activities.

Although there are commercial health monitors already available in the wearables market, they measure only one biomarker. According to the UC San Diego researchers, those devices leave out other information that can help individuals manage their disease more effectively.

A monitor for glucose levels for diabetics is more helpful if it can also detect alcohol levels because alcohol can bring down glucose levels. Monitoring lactate levels on the other hand is also useful during workouts. While physical activities help in regulating glucose levels, monitoring muscle fatigue through lactate levels is also important.