Saturday, November 1, 2014

New Uses for Wearable Skin Patches

Previously I talked about how wearable skin patches not much bigger than a Band-Aid that could be used to deliver drugs or vaccines (see "A Skin Patch to Deliver the Flu Vaccine"). Wearable skin patches are being developed for other uses as well, including monitoring a patient's vital signs and diagnosing specific diseases.

Swedish researchers are developing a wearable skin patch called the Bio-patch, with embedded wireless micro-sensors and a small battery. The Bio-patch could be used to monitor a patient's vital signs and send them wirelessly to a smartphone or to the patient's doctor. The Bio-patch would permit 24-hour monitoring of a patient, enabling a physician to know exactly when a patient's condition has changed. Sensors have been developed to monitor body temperature and the electrical activity of the heart (an electrocardiogram; ECG) and brain (an electroencephalogram; EEG).

An Australian group is developing a wearable skin patch with tiny micro-needles that penetrate the outer layer of the skin and sample the intradermal fluid. The tiny micro-needles are coated with antibodies that detect the presence of antigens from the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. The device can detect malaria in a patient without the need for a blood sample and blood analysis. So far the device has only been tested on mice, and only to detect malaria. But in theory, it should also work in humans and it could conceivably be used to test for nearly any disease in which disease antibodies are present in interstitial fluid.

It's a pretty good bet that within the next decate you'll see some of these products come to market.

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