New York: Researchers have developed the first flexible wearable device that has the potential to monitor both biochemical and electric signals in the human body.
The device, which includes a flexible suite of sensors and a small electronic board, is known as the “Chem-Phys” patch and records electrocardiogram (EKG) heart signals and tracks levels of lactate — a biochemical that is a marker of physical effort — in real time.
“One of the overarching goals of our research is to build a wearable tricorder-like device that can measure simultaneously a whole suite of chemical, physical and electrophysiological signals continuously throughout the day,” said Patrick Mercier, professor at University of California-San Diego.
The tiny device — made by screen printing on to a thin, flexible polymer sheet — can be applied directly to the skin and communicates wirelessly with a phone, smart watch or laptop
The device can also transmit the data from biochemical and electrical signals via Bluetooth.
Combining information about heart rate and lactate — a first in the field of wearable sensors — could be especially useful for athletes wanting to improve their performance, the researchers noted.
The teams’ biggest challenge was making sure that signals from the two sensors didn’t interfere with each other.
In the study, detailed in the journal Nature Communications, the “Chem-Phys” patch was tested on three male subjects who wore the device on their chest, near the base of their sternum, while doing 15 to 30 minutes of intense activity on a stationary bike.
Two of the subjects also wore a commercial wristband heart rate monitor.
The data collected by the EKG electrodes on the patch closely matched the data collected by the commercial wristband.
The device can also be helpful for physicians to monitor patients with heart disease.
“The ability to concurrently assess EKG and lactate could also open up some interesting possibilities in preventing and/or managing individuals with heart diseases,” explained Kevin Patrick, a physician.