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March 8, 2023

Interstitial Fluid Monitoring

Biomedical engineers from the University of Cincinnati are developing sensors to measure the hormones and other chemicals in interstitial fluid, which contains many of the same benchmarks for monitoring as traditional blood work.

Credit: U.S. National Science Foundation

Blood may be the gold standard for health monitoring, but nobody likes the poking and prodding of a doctor's visit. What if drawing blood was no longer necessary for health monitoring? We'll explore the future of diagnosis in the U.S. National Science Foundation's "Discovery Files."

Beyond blood, people have liters of interstitial fluid, the watery substance between and around cells, that make up as much as 15% of their body weight. Interstitial fluid contains many of the same chemicals in the same proportions as blood, offering a potential alternative to painful, costly, and time-consuming lab work.

With support from NSF, biomedical engineers from the University of Cincinnati are developing sensors to measure the hormones and other chemicals found in interstitial fluid. In a recently published study, they outlined and compared ways that doctors can sample interstitial fluid, such as applying suction to the skin or deploying microdialysis.

The fluid holds promise for monitoring health through wearable technology that would allow for continuous diagnosis. Using a tiny patch, the biomedical engineers were able to pierce the skin using microneedles less than 1 millimeter in length.

This technology could help doctors track the efficacy of drugs to ensure proper dosage or provide early diagnosis of illness by monitoring the immune system. Additionally, interstitial fluid allows for rich insights into disease states and cell signals that may or cannot be detected by sampling blood.

To hear more science and engineering news, including the researchers making it, subscribe to "NSF's Discovery Files" podcast.

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