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'Science Nation' highlights UC's groundbreaking sweat research

UC's work in sweat sensors is revolutionizing the field of health diagnostics

The National Science Foundation highlighted groundbreaking research at the University of Cincinnati that could change the way disease is diagnosed and treated.

The program Science Nation profiled UC professor Jason Heikenfeld’s Novel Device Lab and his Cincinnati startup company Eccrine Systems, which are developing sweat biosensors that can track health over time.

The segment noted that these noninvasive sensors could be life-changing for cardiac and organ-transplant patients and people with chronic diseases. The sensors also could track the body’s hormones and biochemistry to improve performance for athletes or soldiers.

“Twenty years from now, I think we’ll look back at this and it will be almost impossible to imagine life without this,” Heikenfeld said in the video. “How can you actually practice medicine without having this new continuous measure of my health in real time?”

The innovative work demonstrates UC’s commitment to research as outlined in its strategic plan called Next Lives Here.

The work of Heikenfeld and his students was published recently in the prestigious journals Nature Biotechnology and Lab on a Chip.

Heikenfeld develops wearable technology in his Novel Device Lab in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. His lab last year created the world’s first continuous-testing device that samples sweat as effectively as blood but in a noninvasive way and over many hours. The milestone is remarkable because the continuous sensor allows doctors to track health over time to see whether a patient is getting better or worse. And they can do so in a noninvasive way with a tiny patch applied to the skin that stimulates sweat for up to 24 hours at a time.

Their latest experimental findings were published in December in the journal Lab on a Chip. The study concluded that sweat provided virtually the same information as blood to measure a drug’s presence in the body.

More recently, Heikenfeld examined the potential of sweat, saliva, tears and interstitial fluid to test human health using tiny, portable sensors.

After examining the use of saliva, tears and interstitial fluid, Heikenfeld concluded in the Nature article that sweat holds the most promise for noninvasive testing because it provides similar information as blood and its secretion rate can be controlled and measured.

The latest breakthrough at UC marked the culmination of more than seven years of research, he said.

UC is at the forefront of developing new biosensors that Heikenfeld thinks will revolutionize the way we track disease and wellness.

Featured image at top: A UC student works out in a gym. Photo/Lisa Ventre/UC Creative Services

Next Lives Here

The University of Cincinnati is classified as a Research 1 institution by the Carnegie Commission and is ranked in the National Science Foundation's Top-35 public research universities. UC's graduate students and faculty investigate problems and innovate solutions with real-world impact. Next Lives Here.