Nav: Home

New wearable sensor tracks vitamin C levels in sweat

May 20, 2020

A team at the University of California San Diego has developed a wearable, non invasive Vitamin C sensor that could provide a new, highly personalized option for users to track their daily nutritional intake and dietary adherence. The study was published in the May 18, 2020 issue of ACS Sensors.

"Wearable sensors have traditionally been focused on their use in tracking physical activity, or for monitoring disease pathologies, like in diabetes," said first-author Juliane Sempionatto, a PhD Candidate in nanoengineering in Joseph Wang's lab at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. "This is the first demonstration of using an enzyme-based approach to track changes in the level of a necessary vitamin, and opens a new frontier in the wearable device arena."

"Wearable sensors have rarely been considered for precision nutrition," said Joseph Wang, a professor of nanoengineering and director of the Center of Wearable Sensors at UC San Diego.

Why vitamin C is important

Vitamin C is an essential dietary component, as it cannot be synthesized by the human body and must be obtained through our food or via vitamin supplements. The vitamin is important for supporting immune health and collagen production, a vital player in wound healing, as well as improving iron absorption from plant-based foods. Ongoing research is examining whether or not the vitamin's role as an antioxidant might support its use in treating diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Most pressingly, the vitamin is being studied in several clinical trials for its potential in supporting recovery from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus. A handful of past studies have linked high doses of vitamin C, alongside other treatments, to reduced mortality rates in patients with sepsis and, in one study, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) - both common conditions seen in serious cases where patients with COVID-19 require intensive care and intubation.

If vitamin C does help patients recover from the disease, such a wearable sensor might aid doctors and recovering patients in tracking their vitamin C levels during treatment and recovery, providing an opportunity for healthcare providers to precisely tune vitamin supplementation to match a patient's needs.

The wearable device

The new wearable device consists of an adhesive patch that can be applied to a user's skin, containing a system to stimulate sweating and an electrode sensor designed to quickly detect vitamin C levels in sweat. To do so, the device includes flexible electrodes containing the enzyme ascorbate oxidase. When vitamin C is present, the enzyme converts it to dehydroascrobic acid and the resulting consumption of oxygen generates a current that is measured by the device.

In vitro testing and testing in four human subjects who had consumed vitamin C supplements and vitamin C-containing fruit juices showed that the device was highly sensitive to detecting changes in the levels and dynamics of the vitamin when tracked across two hours. The researchers also tested the electrode detector's ability to detect temporal vitamin C changes in tears and saliva, demonstrating its cross-functionality. Differences observed in the vitamin C dynamics across different human subjects indicates that the device has promise for personal nutrition applications.

"Ultimately, this sort of device would be valuable for supporting behavioral changes around diet and nutrition," said Sempionatto. "A user could track not just vitamin C, but other nutrients - a multivitamin patch, if you will. This is a field that will keep growing fast." The UC San Diego team is closely collaborating with a major global nutrition company DSM towards the use of wearable sensors for personal nutrition.

"Despite the rapid development of wearable biosensors, the potential of these devices to guide personalized nutrition has not yet been reported," said Wang. "I hope that the new epidermal patch will facilitate the use of wearable sensors for non-invasive nutrition status assessments and tracking of nutrient uptake toward detecting and correcting nutritional deficiencies, assessing adherence to vitamin intake, and supporting dietary behavior change."

With the pressing need to develop new treatments for COVID-19, the team is also looking for ways to quickly get this technology into a clinical setting, in the event that vitamin C does prove to be a helpful treatment for the disease.
-end-
Story by Alison Caldwell, PhD, Bigelow Science Communication Fellow

University of California - San Diego

Related Nutrition Articles:

'Front of package' nutrition labels improved nutrition quality
A new study analyzing 16 years of data on tens of thousands of products finds that the adoption of nutrition data on ''front of package'' labels is associated with improved nutritional content of those foods and their competitors.
Aquaculture's role in nutrition in the COVID-19 era
A new paper from American University examines the economics of an aquaculture industry of the future that is simultaneously environmentally sustainable and nutritious for the nearly 1 billion people worldwide who depend on it.
Fathers are more likely to be referred for nutrition or exercise counseling
Fatherhood status has been linked to medical providers' weight-related practices or counseling referrals.
Refugee children get better health, nutrition via e-vouchers
Electronic food vouchers provided young Rohingya children in Bangladeshi refugee camps with better health and nutrition than direct food assistance, according to new research led by Cornell University, in conjunction with the International Food Policy Research Institute.
Leaders call for 'Moonshot' on nutrition research
Leading nutrition and food policy experts outline a bold case for strengthening federal nutrition research in a live interactive session as part of NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE, a virtual conference hosted by the American Society for Nutrition (ASN).
Featured research from NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE
Press materials are now available for NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE, a dynamic virtual event showcasing new research findings and timely discussions on food and nutrition.
Diet, nutrition have profound effects on gut microbiome
A new literature review from scientists at George Washington University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology suggests that nutrition and diet have a profound impact on the microbial composition of the gut.
Are women getting adequate nutrition during preconception and pregnancy?
In a Maternal & Child Nutrition analysis of published studies on the dietary habits of women who were trying to conceive or were pregnant, most studies indicated that women do not meet nutritional recommendations for vegetable, cereal grain, or folate intake.
Supermarkets and child nutrition in Africa
Hunger and undernutrition are widespread problems in Africa. At the same time, overweight, obesity, and related chronic diseases are also on the rise.
Horse nutrition: Prebiotics do more harm than good
Prebiotics are only able to help stabilise the intestinal flora of horses to a limited degree.
More Nutrition News and Nutrition Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Warped Reality
False information on the internet makes it harder and harder to know what's true, and the consequences have been devastating. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around technology and deception. Guests include law professor Danielle Citron, journalist Andrew Marantz, and computer scientist Joy Buolamwini.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.