Wearable device for monitoring metabolites and nutrients

Today, we want to highlight an interesting development on the wearable diagnostics front: Researchers have developed A wearable device that can monitor nutrients, hormones, and medications [1].

Real-time health monitoring

Wearable medical devices have increased in popularity in recent years. A few decades ago, a complex diagnostic machine capable of measuring molecules circulating in the blood would have been a large, intrusive, and bulky task, but thanks to advances, such systems can be both small and portable. This is largely thanks to advances in processor technology and the smaller sizes with which they can be produced.

These researchers, who are based in the Cherng Department of Medical Engineering at Caltech, recently unveiled this new device. They show how it can detect even trace amounts of nutrients and other molecules in human sweat. These nutrients and molecules can serve as useful biomarkers for determining human health in real time.

The technology behind the sensor was developed in Wei Gao’s lab, which has been developing wearable technology like this for many years. This new, more precise device represents a new peak in its work.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the new sensor is that it uses molecularly printed polymers, which are shaped to act like reusable synthetic antibodies. This specially formulated polymer is combined with a material that can oxidize or reduce when an electrical voltage is applied in contact with human sweat.

Finally, the device uses microfluidics, which use numerous microtubes less than a quarter of a millimeter wide to absorb small amounts of fluid. This allows the sensor to monitor target particles in the sweat even when the amount of fluid available is minimal.

The device has been tested by human participants in a laboratory with positive results. Dr. Zhao hopes to test the device in large-scale human studies as a next step.


Wearable, non-invasive biosensors for continuous monitoring of metabolites in sweat can detect a few analytes at sufficiently high concentrations, usually during vigorous exercise to generate sufficient biofluid. Here we report the design and performance of a wearable electrochemical biosensor for continuous analysis, in sweat during physical exercise and at rest, of tracer levels of multiple metabolites and nutrients, including all essential amino acids and vitamins. The biosensor consists of graphene electrodes that can be repeatedly regenerated in situ, functionalized with molecularly specific antibody-like polymers and redox-active reporter nanoparticles, integrated with modules for iontophoresis-based sweat induction, microfluidic sweat sampling, signal processing and titration, and communications wireless. In volunteers, the biosensor enabled real-time monitoring of amino acid intake and levels during physical exercise, as well as assessment of metabolic syndrome risk (by correlating amino acid levels in serum and sweat). Monitoring metabolites for early identification of abnormal health conditions can facilitate applications in precision nutrition.


Given that the device can measure a wide range of nutrients, metabolites, hormones, and drugs, the benefit here is obvious. The ability to monitor biological changes in real time can provide researchers with very valuable information and help inform follow-up studies.

Besides clinical trials of aging interventions, such technology could also prove popular in the public health wearable market. Imagine being able to monitor your nutrient intake and watch how things change in real time. It can also prove invaluable to people with conditions like diabetes, helping them improve their glucose levels.

The ability to continuously monitor health vital signs in real time has nearly limitless applications, and this is an exciting development in diagnosis and monitoring of vital signs.

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[1] Wang, M, Yang, Wai, Min, Ji, Song, Wai, Tu, J, Mukasa, D, …, Zhao, W (2022). A wearable electrochemical biosensor for monitoring metabolites and nutrients. The Nature of Biomedical Engineering, 1-11.

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