Using Microneedles for Real-Time Monitoring of Body Chemistry

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Researchers from North Carolina State University, Sandia National Laboratories, and the University of California, San Diego, published about a new technology that uses micro needles for real-time detection of chemical changes in the body. The paper, "Multiplexed Microneedle-based Biosensor Array for Characterization of Metabolic Acidosis," was published online in the journal Talanta this week.

The microneedle-based biosensor array can measure multiple analytes at the same time. The researchers describe testing conditions such as exercise-induced metabolic acidosis, tumor microenvironment, and other variations in tissue chemistry. Simultaneous and selective detection of pH, glucose, and lactate over a range of physiologically-relevant concentrations in complex media is demonstrated in the paper.

Dr. Roger Narayan, professor in the joint biomedical engineering department of NC State's College of Engineering and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explains:

We've loaded the hollow channels within microneedles with electrochemical sensors that can be used to detect specific molecules or pH levels. The idea is that customized microneedle sensor arrays could be developed and incorporated into wearable devices, such as something like a wristwatch, to help answer specific medical or research questions. For example, it could monitor glucose levels in a diabetic patient.

Existing technology relies on taking samples and testing them, whereas this approach allows continuous monitoring. In addition to its clinical applications, the new technology may also create opportunities for new research endeavors. For example, the microneedle sensor arrays could be used to track changes in lactate levels while people are exercising -- rather than measuring those levels only before and after exercise.

The researchers also point out that the micro needles are such small things that they won't hurt you, so needle-phobics need not worry.


This post also appears on medGadget, an Atlantic partner site.

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