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"Sweating the Details" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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University of Cincinnati researchers have demonstrated that sweat works as well as blood for health monitoring by creating the world's first noninvasive device that can test sweat continuously and for hours. This innovation could contribute to continuous health monitoring with wearable devices, which provides data over time so that doctors can track health trends instead of relying on the snapshot that a single blood test provides.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Sweat stream.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

For decades, doctors have relied on necessary but sometimes invasive tests to gain information on their patients' health. The familiar (Sound effect: clock), time-consuming, (Sound effect: cartoon pin prick) pin-pricking blood test, effective but rather intrusive and slow to get results from the lab. (Sound effect: 80s music) In the 80s, tiny point-of-care devices allowed health care professionals to get immediate results. Thanks to a new development out of the University of Cincinnati, we're entering a new phase: continuous tracking to monitor changes in a patient's health over longer periods through wearable sensors that gather info from your sweat. (Sound effect: drip!)

A blood test is like a single health selfie. The new method is a stream of readings, you're literally sweating the details -- sorry. The team's device is a band aid-size patch that stimulates perspiration in the area for up to 24 hours and can get the same information from sweat that doctors examine in blood. The continuous sensor lets physicians see if a patient is getting better or worse, or tailor drug dosages by seeing how much of a med is in the blood. Oh, and did I mention, no pin prick? (Sound effect: cartoon pin prick)

And since the device stimulates sweat under the sensor, even when you're cool and resting, (Sound effect: heavy breathing) you won't have to go out and work up a sweat to -- sweat out a workup.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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