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Image credit: Geber86 via Getty Images

Body sensor collects vital data by making you sweat

You don't have to run a marathon to get non-intrusive health data.
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Geber86 via Getty Images

Medical sensors that sample your sweat are great, as they can accurately gather some of the data you'd get from blood without having to poke through your skin. There's just one problem: this usually means going for a run or otherwise doing something taxing to produce that sweat. However, researchers have an elegant solution. They've devised a relatively small sensor (about the size of a Band-Aid) that stimulates the sweat glands on a small patch of skin so that you can get sweat data without exerting yourself. The device uses a tiny electrical current (0.2mA) to send carbachol, a chemical found in eyedrops, into the upper layer of your skin. From there, it's just a matter of measuring the electrolytes concentrated in your sweat.

This is not only less invasive than a blood sample, it's potentially much more practical. You can't always take blood (a pilot isn't about to try it mid-flight), and it's not realistic to monitor blood continuously. With sweat, that's not a problem -- the scientists could track electrolytes for up to five hours at a time. That could be vital for tracking conditions where you need continuous data, such as the performance of an athlete, stress levels at a high-intensity job or a recent surgery patient.

The best part: this may be a practical reality sooner than you think. One of the researchers co-founded a company, Eccrine Systems, that's in the midst of refining and commercializing the sweat-inducing sensor. There's no guarantee that you'll buy one off the shelf, but you may eventually wear it when some future doctor or coach needs your health stats.

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