Doctors already use sweat for drug tests and insight on diseases like cystic fibrosis, and can be as helpful as blood in checking on health.
But sweat has its limits – largely because there’s only so much of it you can collect at one time.
Technology may have caught up with the power of sweat. A company created at the University of Cincinnati will take a serious run in the next few years at trying to supplant the blood test by using a mix of sensor and wearable technologies to sample sweat.
Eccrine Systems also claims its disposable sweat-monitoring device can constantly test sweat to provide insights into the human body it will then transmit wirelessly into the cloud. The sensor could conceptually alert physicians when someone stops taking their medications based on information from sweat. Plus, the data gathered from sweat monitoring could potentially help doctors create more customized, personalized medical treatments.
“The convergence of technologies is going to be the breakthrough that make sweat the penultimate biofluid for real-time capture,” said Robert Beech, Eccrine’s executive chairman and co-founder.
The company started to spread the word on its “Sweatronics Platform” back in October. However, Eccrine will today announce it’s raised $1.5 million in private investment from the regional groupCincyTech and other Cincinnati-area partners.
Beech said executives will soon reveal their first partner that will use the device, which is about the size of a jumbo Band-Aid.
The funding will let Eccrine improve the technology while searching for additional customers. Ideally, Eccrine wants these first customers to turn into long-term partners, who will either invest in the company or provide revenue to support the business’ growth. It’s targeting the military, athletics, clinical trials monitoring and pharmaceutical companies in general.
The company thinks it can be the solution for some of the big issues in healthcare, including medication adherence, measuring individual drug effectiveness and helping optimize the performance of military personnel, among other things.
Unlike many companies caught up in the wearables craze, Eccrine will avoid the consumer market.
“We recognize there are many well-known companies vying for the attention of broad consumer markets for wearable devices, which often intersect with fashion trends and personal image choices,” Beech stated in the company’s announcement. “In direct contrast, our efforts are aimed at specialized and regulated medical and business markets that expect proof of data accuracy and chronological assurance, plus credible scientific studies related to physiological and economic outcomes.
“Furthermore, our low profile electronic patches are being designed for placement on discreet skin locations that do not interfere with work, play, sleep, or personal image preferences,” he stated.
There are still a lot of unknowns with the product. Pricing typically ranges between $7 and $30 per patch. Ideally, Eccrine wants one patch to be able to last for at least a day. However, it is not there yet. Beech declined to say how long the current device can monitor someone.
The advantage of sweat over blood tests are obvious – a passive sampling of sweat beats a needle stick any day. Plus, sweat trumps tests from breath, saliva and tears.
Some competition could come, though, from microneedles, which are gathering steam as a better drug-delivery method and being considered to regularly monitor blood.