Significant clinical uses of sweat testing trace back to the 1950’s. Yet it is only now in the twenty-first century that we are witnessing rapid acceleration of sweat diagnostics for applications ranging from athletics to pediatrics to pharmaceutical monitoring.
Several years before the founding of our company, Dr. Jason Heikenfeld of the University of Cincinnati and research colleagues at the Air Force Research Labs at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, launched an all-out-push to enable continuous monitoring of blood-based biomarkers in Air Force personnel for optimal mission performance and safety. The goal was not to create something incremental, but rather to revolutionize biomarker collection and analysis. A true leap forward would require the technology to be non-invasive and to allow sampling intervals as short as several minutes.
Sweat is the only biofluid that can satisfy these criteria.
The real innovation came in the approach. Heikenfeld and his colleagues are engineers. They recognized that clinical (laboratory) techniques were impractical for use by non laboratory personnel and the special activity requirements of Air Force personnel. The historical laboratory methods for the capture and analysis of sweat were actually less convenient than an invasive blood draw. They quickly looked at eccrine sweat glands not as sampling sites, but rather as non-invasive microfluidic conduits for getting biomarkers from blood and interstitial fluid across tiny yet powerful electronic sensors.
The result? Advanced electronic wearable technology which captures and senses sweat biomarkers the instant they emerge from sweat glands, capturing them with accuracy and consistency, and sensing them well before they start to degrade on the surface of the skin. This was a game changer, as the quality of sweat sensing measurements became superior to historical clinical lab approaches. Furthermore, although sweat sensing originally was arguably the most inconvenient type of biofluid sampling, the new sweat sensing technology completely flipped the argument, and now made sweat sampling ergonomically superior to all other biofluids. A true paradigm shift in non-invasive biomonitoring was born.