Novel Device Analyzes Sweat to Monitor Type 2 Diabetes

A diabetes wearable device can measure cortisol, glucose, and interleukin-6 in sweat to track disease progession.

Despite the growing prevalence of type 2 diabetes, monitoring devices are largely still somewhat invasive and complicated. However, a new study published by Scientific Reports suggests that an experimental diagnostic device could analyze sweat to determine diabetes-related compounds.

This wearable diagnostic tool measures cortisol, glucose, and interleukin-6 in small amounts of perspiration for up to 1 week at a time without losing efficacy, according to the authors.

"Type 2 diabetes affects so many people. If you have to manage and regulate this chronic problem, these markers are the levers that will help you do that," said researcher Shalini Prasad, PhD. "We believe we've created the first diagnostic wearable that can monitor these compounds for up to a week, which goes beyond the type of single use monitors that are on the market today."

This device may have profound implications for patients with diabetes, who must constantly monitor their glucose levels to ensure they do not experience complications, according to the study authors. Importantly, the device may be able to track a patient’s disease progression.

"If a person has chronic stress, their cortisol levels increase, and their resulting insulin resistance will gradually drive their glucose levels out of the normal range," Dr Prasad said. "At that point, one could become pre-diabetic, which can progress to type 2 diabetes, and so on. If that happens, your body is under a state of inflammation, and this inflammatory marker, interleukin-6, will indicate that your organs are starting to be affected."

Previously, the team of investigators discovered they could measure both glucose and cortisol in sweat. In the new study, the authors were able to make a more practical and versatile device.

"We wanted to make a product more useful than something disposable after a single use," Dr Prasad said. "It also has to require only your ambient sweat, not a huge amount. And it's not enough to detect just 1 thing. Measuring multiple molecules in a combinatorial manner and tracking them over time allows us to tell a story about your health."

A main feature of the device is the use of room temperature ionic liquid (RTIL), which is a gel that stabilizes the skin’s microenvironment. This allows for a week’s worth of hourly readings to be taken without degradation, according to the study.

"This greatly influences the cost model for the device -- you're buying 4 monitors per month instead of 30; you're looking at a year's supply of only about 50," Dr Prasad said. "The RTIL also allows the detector to interface well with different skin types -- the texture and quality of pediatric skin versus geriatric skin have created difficulties in prior models. The RTIL's ionic characteristics make it somewhat like applying moisturizer to skin."

The team was also able to create the device to only require 1 to 3 microliters of sweat to accurately measure the biomarkers, which allows for continuous monitoring, according to the study.

The high frequency of biomarker measurement could lead to an overarching view of how the body responds to diet, lifestyle, and treatment. The authors wrote that this could help patients take better care of themselves and lead to healthy changes, according to the study.

The authors also want to make sure that the device is low-cost and is able to be utilized by many patients with varying income levels.

"We've designed this product so that it can be manufactured using standard coating techniques. We made sure we used processes that will allow for mass production without adding cost," Dr Prasad said. "Our cost of manufacturing will be comparable to what it currently takes to make single-use glucose test strips -- as little as 10 to 15 cents. It needs to reach people beyond America and Europe -- and even within first-world nations, we see the link between diabetes and wealth. It can't simply be a small percentage of people who can afford this."

Since there are no similar devices on the market, the investigators believe that the wearable device could benefit many individuals. The authors hope that this device can be launched within the next year, according to the study.

"We've been solving this problem since 2012, in 3 phases," Dr Prasad concluded. "The initial concept for a system level integration of these sensors was done in collaboration with EnLiSense LLC, a startup focused on enabling lifestyle based sensors and devices. In the market, there's nothing that is a slap-on wearable that uses perspired sweat for diagnostics. And I think we are the closest. If we find the right partner, then within a 12-month window, we hope to license our technology and have our first products in the market."