Soft “sweat stickers” may streamline diagnosis of cystic fibrosis in children

Written by | 6 Apr 2021 | Devices and Technology

New “sweat stickers” may streamline the early diagnosis of cystic fibrosis by enabling scientists to easily gather and analyze sweat from the skin of infants and children. The stickers matched the performance of previous, more cumbersome devices when tested with 51 subjects, suggesting the stickers could address design obstacles that have held back the diagnosis and treatment of cystic fibrosis in pediatric patients. Diagnosing cystic fibrosis in infancy or childhood is critical to achieve good outcomes, as current treatments must be given early to extend lifespans and alter the course of the disease.

Many current diagnostics work by detecting levels of chloride in sweat, which are elevated in cystic fibrosis patients. However, these tests must often be repeated and use unwieldy wrist-wrapped devices, making them impractical for infants with soft skin and low levels of sweat. To address this need, Tyler Ray and colleagues developed their sweat stickers, which are soft microfluidic devices with a multilayered design that can conform to the skin of both infants and adults. The stickers rapidly collect and store sweat from the skin, which scientists can then analyze using a smartphone application. The stickers collected sweat as effectively as a traditional method named MSCS in a pilot study with 18 healthy subjects and 33 patients ranging from 2 months to 51 years old. Unlike MSCS, the stickers gathered enough sweat to avoid any repeated tests and did not cause uncomfortable skin indentations in infants.

The researchers call for larger studies to further establish their platform’s accuracy and precision.

After collecting sweat, the sticker is removed from the skin, and sweat can be extracted with a standard lab pipetter. This material relates to a paper that appeared in the Mar. 31, 2021, issue of Science Translational Medicine, published by AAAS. The paper, by T.R. Ray at University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu, HI; and colleagues was titled, “Soft, skin-interfaced sweat stickers for cystic fibrosis diagnosis and management.”


[Credit: T.R. Ray et al., Science Translational Medicine (2021)]

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