Health In Focus
  • Wearable medical devices help to measure physiological and pathological parameters on a continuous basis
  • Wearing the device over a prolonged duration can damage the underlying skin
  • A new sensor allows the skin to breathe, is extremely light and could be used over prolonged durations

The integration of technology and medical science has resulted in the development of an electronic sensor that can be worn on the skin for prolonged durations without affecting the underlying skin. The study was published in Nano Technology.

The concept of fitness and medical wearables has changed the approach to health fitness and medical diagnostics. A fitness tracker is a must for most fitness enthusiasts today. The new devices are small, and do not interfere with the exercise routine. The number that indicates the calories burnt provides positive feedback and encourages the person to carry on with the fitness regimen.
Skin Sensor With Nanomeshes can be Used Over Prolonged Duration
Skin Sensor With Nanomeshes can be Used Over Prolonged Duration

In the not-so-distant past, every diagnostic test required that the person should visit the hospital or a medical laboratory. Given the anxiety associated with a hospital visit, the patient's physiological parameters were perhaps not exactly be the same as otherwise. For example, the patient's heart rate may be faster and the blood pressure may be higher. With advances in technology, many of these tests have reached the patient's home. Wearable sensors can detect parameters like heart rate, blood pressure, ECG and even blood glucose and oxygen saturation. The measurement of such parameters gives a continuous account of the patient's health condition, and appropriate steps can be immediately taken on detection of an emergency. The decreasing costs and sizes of the devices has also increased their popularity.

One problem associated with electronic sensors worn on the skin is that, if they are worn continuously, they block the breathability of the skin. As a result, the skin underneath the device could get damaged.

Japanese scientists have now come up with an electronic sensor that can breathe! In other words, the device can be applied to the skin without obstructing the breathability of the skin. It can, therefore, be used for prolonged durations without damaging the skin. The device consists of an electrode constructed of nanoscale meshes. It is attached to the skin with the help of a small amount of water sprayed at the site. It is extremely thin and light, fits well on the skin and does not cause discomfort or irritation. The scientists, in fact, reported that it is so convenient that the patient often forgets about its presence.

The sensor was tested in 20 patients, who wore it for a week. The research team who carried out the test noted the following:
  • The skin did not show any signs of inflammation on a skin test
  • The gas permeability of the sensor was superior to that of other materials like ultrathin plastic foil and a thin rubber sheet
  • The durability was 10000 times better than that of a conductor attached on the forefinger
  • The readings obtained were reliable. To test this, the electrical activity of the muscles was recorded with the device and compared to the readings obtained using conventional gel electrodes
This new sensor will hopefully be useful not only in medical diagnostics, but also in professional sports to measure physiological parameters and bodily motions without making the athlete conscious of its presence.

References :
  1. Miyamoto A et al. Inflammation-free, gas-permeable, lightweight, stretchable on-skin electronics with nanomeshes, Nature Nanotechnology (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2017.125

Source: Medindia

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