Wearable health devices have come a rather long way from their humble origins and intended purposes. Initially, fitness trackers emerged in the world in 1995, with the Manpo-kei – which translates to ‘10,000 steps meter’ – which was invented by Dr. Yoshiro Hatano. This invention came about when Dr. Hatano was researching how to combat obesity. Currently, wearable technology in healthcare can cover a vast array of monitoring and function capabilities. Advancements in technology in electronic devices enable consumers to wear more accurate and wide-ranging devices that can aid in a variety of aspects and purposes related to health and wellness. Devices and brands currently available such as Fitbits and smartwatches, are designed to collect personal data of users related to health and exercise. However, the veil has been lifted further, and instead of merely monitoring and providing feed-back, today’s wearable medical devices can play doctor.
New and more innovative wearable-health devices are being launched, and the features which will offer features including real-time data about the patients with eye and mouth illnesses, as per Huanyu Cheng, Assistant Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM) at the Pennsylvania State University. Recently published report by Cheng in the Microsystems & Nanoengineering journal suggests that new nano-device technology could revolutionize the way certain health conditions can be monitored and treated. Huanyu mentioned, “He and his team sought to develop high-tech device that can collect small as well as large substances of human biofluids such as saliva and tears to analyze for certain conditions that need to be tested continuously, rather than waiting for test results from lab.” These wearable sensors will be placed near tear duct or mouth in order to collect substances, which will then generate test data viewable on user’s mobile phone or sent to the doctor. The researcher intends to build a soft, discreet and comfortable wearable device that can be worn by any patient with ease, and might be rated among low-cost options for patients. The saliva- and tears-sensing technology will offer remote management of diseases such as oral cancer, oral ulcers, oral or eye infections, eye wrinkles, and keratitis, which is a condition that causes inflammation of clear tissue on front of the eye.
The new technologically advanced wearable device has capability to collect data as well as administer medicine with help of a micro-needle through the skin around tongue, mouth or eyes. The device has nano- and micro-steel ports through which it is possible to probe the wearable device to deliver molecular drugs in an efficient manner at cellular level. On the other hand, these micro-ports allow doctors to access gene and coding information on the cell. This mature technology has a lot to offer and there are various possible uses for the wearable if it makes it to commercial marketplace. Cheng confirms that the research department is focusing on development of working prototypes and is in talks with domestic-level manufacturers along with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for producing the wearable device on a global scale. With strong support from the NSF (National Science Foundation), Huanyu Cheng hopes to expand scope this technology to similar sensing devices in the years to come.
Cheng published a similar smart wearable skin patch last year which helps to collect sweat in order to test pH and sodium. In addition, it helps in monitoring glucose levels – mostly helpful for patients with hypoglycemia or diabetes diseases. This patch can be applied to the skin near sweat glands. The idea was to use the sweat coming naturally from daily exercise or from heat of the sun, instead of using typical methods. Sweat has a lot of biomarkers such as glucose and pH that can be collected to analyze conditions, disease progression and diagnostics.