The body's ionic concentrations of specific ions are important to the general health and well-being of the human body. Loss of ions (through activity and sweat) is of particular concern to sportsmen and women. Dehydration is generally difficult and invasive to accurately measure. The concentration measurements of ion are important because straight rehydration of the body does not necessarily have the effect of replacing the necessary ions. Known systems are expensive and sometimes complicated to operate and so there is an increasing demand for simple portable medical devices for use at remote sites such as point of care testing and on the spot monitoring.
Swansea University scientists have developed a technology for the extraction of ions through the skin and into a gel patch. An analysis sensor is contained within the same gel patch, and this is able to measure the concentrations of ions in the gel and relate these exactly to what is present in an individual's blood. The patch can detect the ions of potassium. A deficiency in potassium can lead to heart problems for example sudden heart attacks. This technology can also be adapted for the detection and measurement of other small molecules.
Such a technology for the measurement of key ions through skin will provide an easy assessment for those in the medical field and those engaging in sports and training activities. The technology would also be applicable to the measurement of ion concentration parameters in hospital and clinic patients, which could be important particularly in the elderly and long-stay hospital patients where dehydration can become an issue. This patented technology can measure potassium ions and it is believed that it will work for other ions. If multiple ion types can be measured with this system, then it will provide a non-invasive measure of dehydration.
The research work has been done in partnership with the University of Strathclyde. A patent has been filed by Swansea University under 1205636.2.