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Smartwatch Tracks Medication Levels in Sweat

WEARABLE technologies may further personalise medical care, as a custom smartwatch has been developed to track medication levels from sweat in real time. Tailored medication dosing to match individual physiology in more convenient, widespread ways may be possible with the use of wearable technologies.

Medication dosing is often determined by several general factors including age and weight; however, body chemistry, genetics, and dynamic factors including meals and recent exercise can affect drug metabolism and concentration differences between individuals. Currently, personalising medication dosing to individuals requires repeated blood testing with samples sent to centralised laboratories; a costly, invasive, and slow process that is not widely utilised.

An engineering research team at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, Los Angeles, California, USA; and the Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA, have developed a custom smartwatch to monitor drug levels in real time. The researchers used a sensor to analyse sampled droplets of sweat to determine the medication concentration of paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen. The electrochemical signature of each drug is unique, which makes the use of the wearable sensor to assess concentration viable. The small molecular size of many medications means that they are often excreted in sweat, and concentrations in sweat often reflect circulating concentrations.

“This technology is a game-changer and a significant step forward for realising personalised medicine,” championed Prof Ronald W. Davis, Stanford School of Medicine. He hopes that pairing pharmacogenomic assessment of patients with wearable trackers for real-time physiology insights will provide truly personalised medicine. Assistant Prof Sam Emaminejad, UCLA Samueli School of Engineering expanded on the other potential applications of the wearable technology, for tracking medication adherence or drug abuse. “This could be particularly important for individuals with mental health issues, where doctors prescribe them prolonged pharmacotherapy treatments,” he said. “The patients could benefit from such easy-to-use, noninvasive monitoring tools, while doctors could see how the medication is doing in the patient.”