Researchers have developed a wearable sensor that can measure stress levels to detect signs of stress-related illness early on. Better yet, there is no blood test involved.
Everyone experiences stress from time to time – especially in corona times – but until now there was no simple and quick way to measure our stress level. That now seems to be changing thanks to a wearable sensor developed by engineers from the Swiss École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPLF).
Measuring is knowing
The researchers, together with Xsensio, a company that produces wearable sensors, developed a system that measures the concentration of cortisol (a hormone that is secreted in stressful conditions) in our sweat.
Through this hormone, the body does the necessary to activate you against a certain stress situation: our heart rate increases, the brain, heart and muscles receive more oxygen and the body releases sugars for more energy. However, if too much cortisol is produced over a longer period of time, it can lead to health problems such as cardiovascular disease, obesity or depression.
Real time information
Because blood tests are invasive and time-consuming, Stanford University researchers first came up with a wearable skin sensor in 2018 that could measure a person’s cortisol level through his or her sweat. But unlike the US patch, the new Swiss sensor can be worn around the clock to measure cortisol levels in real time.
“That’s the main advantage and innovative feature of our device,” says Adrian Ionescu – who leads the research team – to the news site New Atlas. “Because it can be worn, scientists can collect quantitative, objective data on certain stress-related illnesses. And they can do that in a non-invasive, accurate and direct way, across the full range of cortisol concentrations in human sweat. ”
The patch has already been tested in a laboratory. The team now plans to test it at a local hospital on patients suffering from stress-related conditions.