Tech Tattoos

Background information on Tech Tattoo developed by researchers at Northwestern University

  • Wearable fitness devices can track pulse rates and physical activity over time in order to achieve long-term health goals; however, more advanced technology is being developed to monitor what’s happening inside the body in real time.
  • Researchers are now creating wearable devices that analyze the effects of activity on biochemical markers usually obtained from blood samples.  By interfacing a device directly with the skin, sweat can be collected to determine its volume and levels of biochemical markers such as chloride.
  • Knowing how much fluid one is losing through sweat and how that’s affecting their fluid-electrolyte balance and acid-base balance (pH) during exercise, may help one know when to increase or decrease fluid and/or electrolytes. 
  • Gleaning this information in real time can help prevent dehydration and muscle fatigue, which is critical for patients, military personnel, and athletes.  Abnormal hydration status can be fatal or lead to an increased risk for kidney failure, infections, altered mental status, or decreased physical performance.
  • For patients with kidney disease, exercise and proper hydration are essential for helping to preserve kidney function.  A device that can monitor hydration status in this setting can help ensure effective kidney protection.
  • Researchers at Northwestern University have created a soft flexible epidermal microfluidic patch that can detect sweat volume and rate, along with markers of health status found in sweat such as chloride. 
  • To test the efficacy and durability of their device, the researchers undertook two small studies:  one included nine participants in an indoor, environmentally controlled, mild sweat-inducing protocol using cycle ergometers, and the other was performed outdoors with 12 participants during a long-distance cycling race.  Testing demonstrated excellent agreement with conventional laboratory analysis of sweat collected with absorbent pads from older generation sweat collecting devices.  The outdoor high intensity cycling study demonstrated durability, comfort, and no device failures.  The device can collect and measure sweat for up to six hours.
  • The authors hope they can gather enough data from individual users to develop analytic approaches for interpreting trends in biochemical concentrations, which could then be used to provide warning signs of impending abnormalities during exercise.  
  • See instructions on how the tech-tattoo works here