Researchers have developed a small, touch-based sensor that can detect the level of lithium in a person’s body using their sweat. The device can deliver results in less than 30 seconds and does not require a clinic visit. The right level of lithium in the body can help control symptoms of mental health issues, including bipolar disorder and depression. Updates on lithium levels in the body allow health care providers to keep track of whether a patient is taking prescribed medication.
Currently available methods of drug tracking are invasive and have their own drawbacks. While blood tests offer a picture of drug progress, the process is invasive and time-consuming. On the other hand, pill counters cannot assure the measurement of actual drug intake. However, with this new device, researchers attempt to overcome this limitation by using sweat.
The results of the device’s performance were Presented At the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) on August 21
The electrochemical sensing device uses a water-based gel containing glycerol to detect charged particles of lithium in sweat that are usually present in small amounts.
“Although it may not be visible, the human body produces sweat continuously, often only in very small amounts,” said researcher Shuyu Lin, a postgraduate student who co-presented with graduate student Jialun Zhu.
The prison created a controlled environment for the electronic part of the sensor. To trap lithium ions after passing through the gel, the researchers used ion-selective electrodes. The accumulated ions produce a difference in electric potential compared to a reference electrode.
This difference was then used to find the concentration of lithium present in the sweat.
The device has already been tested on people, including a person on lithium treatment. The researchers recorded this person’s lithium levels before and after taking the drug. The results showed that the measurements fell close to those obtained from saliva, which prior research has shown to accurately measure lithium levels.
Although the sensor is still in the early testing phase, the researchers aim to incorporate it into a larger, yet designed system that provides visual feedback to the provider or patient.