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Forget those fitbits and workout apps, because researchers from Northwestern University have developed a soft, flexible microfluidic device that sticks to the skin of a person while exercising to show how his or her body is responding to the work out.
The device, which has about the same size and thickness of a quarter, analyzes various factors—or biomarkers, per the official release—that helps a person determine if he or she needs more water to hydrate, something to help replenish electrolytes or if a change needs to be made to protect themselves from injury.
Simply being called "lab on the skin," the device is designed for a one-time use for a few hours, and should be placed directly on the skin of the forearm or back.
Here's what lead researcher John A. Rogers had to add about the first-of-its-kind device, per Eurekalert:
"The intimate skin interface created by this wearable, skin-like microfluidic system enables new measurement capabilities not possible with the kinds of absorbent pads and sponges currently used in sweat collection."
"Sweat is a rich, chemical broth containing a number of important chemical compounds with physiological health information. By expanding our previously developed 'epidermal' electronics platform to include a complex network of microfluidic channels and storage reservoirs, we now can perform biochemical analysis of this important biofluid," he said.
"The sweat analysis platform we developed will allow people to monitor their health on the spot without the need for a blood sampling and with integrated electronics that do not require a battery but still enable wireless connection to a smartphone," he said.
To test the device's accuracy and durability, researchers had two different groups of athletes wear it: an indoor cyclist in a controlled environment and a long-distance cyclist who competed in the El Tour de Tucson, with the results published in the journal of Science Translational Medicine.
While the device might not be something gym rats who "wing" it use often, for endurance athletes who run marathons, triathlons or train year-round for events, this is a device that is both revolutionary and necessary.
The timeframe for a release to hit market is in a year or two.