Stanford researchers have developed a new wearable that measures the wearer’s cortisol levels using sweat. Cortisol, a vital hormone associated with stress, can be tested with existing methods, but they require several days for results. Stanford’s creation eliminates that long wait period, providing important stress hormone numbers when they matter most.
The project was lead by Stanford University’s materials scientist Alberto Salleo. The team created a stretchy wearable patch, according to the university, that can be placed directly onto the patient’s skin, where it acquires sweat and measures cortisol levels with it. This method provides continuous monitoring that isn’t invasive.
That wearable works via passive sweat wicking, pooling the wearer’s sweat into a small reservoir that is covered with a cortisol-sensitive membrane. The biggest requirement is for the wearer to work up enough of a sweat that they glisten, meaning they’ll likely need to hit the sauna or gym for the monitoring to work.
The wearable is promising for various medical conditions that involve cortisol, which are difficult to treat due to the delay in measuring cortisol levels. Continuous cortisol level monitoring could open the door for more effective medical treatments.
A prototype of the device “appears to work” as the researchers intended, according to the university, though additional work may improve accuracy and reliability. In addition, the team may create a reusable patch that can be applied many times; the prototype itself indicates that it could be used repeatedly as long as it didn’t get waterlogged.