: A research team from the University of California-San Diego has developed a wearable, non-invasive Vitamin C sensor that could provide a novel highly personalized option for users to track their daily nutritional intake and dietary adherence.
First-author Juliane Sempionatto, a PhD Candidate in nanoengineering in Joseph Wang’s lab at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering told Thailand Medical News,“Wearable sensors have traditionally been focused on their use in tracking physical activity, or for monitoring disease pathologies, like in diabetes. 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.”
Professor Joseph Wang, an expert of nanoengineering and director of the Center of Wearable Sensors at UC San Diego said, “Wearable sensors have rarely been considered for precision nutrition.”
The research findings and development was published in the journal ACS Sensors. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acssensors.0c00604
The dietary component Vitamin C is essential 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.
Importantly, 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.
Even 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 alter vitamin supplementation to match a patient’s needs.
The novel 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.
In order 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.
So far, 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 study team also tested the electrode detector’s ability to detect temporal vitamin C changes in tears and saliva, demonstrating its cross-functionality.
It has been observed that differences observed in the vitamin C dynamics across different human subjects indicates that the device has promise for personal nutrition applications.
Sempionatto added, “Ultimately, this sort of device would be valuable for supporting behavioral changes around diet and nutrition. A user could track not just vitamin C, but other nutrients ie a multivitamin patch, if you will. This is a field that will keep growing fast.”
The research team is closely collaborating with a major global nutrition company DSM towards the use of wearable sensors for personal nutrition.
Interestingly the sensor is paired with a board that can transmit data wirelessly.
Professor Wang added, “Despite the rapid development of wearable biosensors, the potential of these devices to guide personalized nutrition has not yet been reported. 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.”
Due to the dire need to develop new treatments for COVID-19, the researchers are 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.
The researchers are also exploring using the device to monitor other dietary vitamins or supplements.
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