A colour changing sticker that measures chloride levels in sweat in real-time has been developed by researchers at Northwestern University in bid to accelerate cystic fibrosis diagnosis in newborns.
Early diagnosis is imperative to the genetic disease as patients can suffer malnourishment if adequate treatment isn’t received straight after birth. Typically, diagnosis involves a heel prick test involving a bulky “sweat collector” bracelet placed around a child’s wrist which will later be used to perform an analysis of sweat chloride levels.
While the device aims to collect enough sweat for analysis in around 30 minutes, this isn’t always the case. Susanna McColley, a researcher involved in the study, added in a press release:
Some parents bring their baby in for testing and are sent home without a confirmed result because the device was unable to collect enough sweat,
They go home, without knowing if their baby has a serious disease or not, and their baby cannot yet start treatment. It can be agonizing.
As a result, the sticker aims to fill in the market gap with an effective and simplified device.
The sticker works by analysing sweat for chloride level analysis automatically, resulting in an observable color change. The parents can then forward a picture to a clinician for further analysis.
Tyler Ray, another researcher involved in the project, explained how the device works:
The device uses a network of microfluidic channels to collect sweat directly from the skin and route it to chambers to react with chemical reagents,
Those reagents cause a change in color that correlates to the chloride concentration level. By collecting and analyzing sweat at the point of collection, we can enable an earlier diagnosis. This is crucial for preventing severe complications and improving long-term patient outcomes.
Furthermore, the device also appears to be useful as means to monitor patients’ conditions and whether any improvement is observed. Roozbeh Ghaffari, another researcher who worked on the study, added:
Because this device is untethered, we plan to use it beyond clinical environments,
In light of these new capabilities and further clinical validation, cystic fibrosis patients receiving treatment could someday use the sweat sticker at home to track their symptoms and hydration levels during daily living.