Recently attended this excellent event focussed on the current and future state of the "wearables" industry. Interestingly, there is a strong supply of "consumer" products including fitness devices (e.g. FitBit), smart watches, etc. These devices are not regulated, because while they provide interesting information (heart rate, etc) they do not use the information to provide any medical/health information to the user. Sound like a fine line? I thought so! Unsurprisingly it is much harder to develop the "medical wearables" which can be used to monitor health indicators, because they need to be regulated by the FDA, CE, TGA, etc. There are also some interesting challenges regarding the security of data that flies across wireless networks, etc.
From a NEL point of view, it was really interesting to note that there are very few devices out there that focus on detecting molecular information. In other words, the current and emerging wearable devices all seem to measure physical indicators - e.g. heart rate, ECG, temperature, etc. While this is a pretty amazing achievement in and of itself (i.e. the electronics, the algorithms, the sensors/transducers, all in a tiny device), I wonder how wearables can be applied to detecting proteins, small chemicals, etc.
The first question is what pool of biomarkers can be interrogated? If the answer is sweat there are many technical questions to answer - is enough sweat generated without exercise for reliable results? What markers of disease/health are detectable in sweat? How does the composition of sweat compare with that of other fluids - e.g. blood, urine, saliva (actually we published a review on that!). Interestingly, Prof Joe Wang's group, among others, have developed some very neat biosensors for detecting small molecules in sweat - so maybe its not too far away.
If the goal is to detect plasma-dervied markers in the blood, there is certainly a possibility of targeting blood vessels in the upper dermal vasculature. However - what about immune responses, wound healing and repair?
Certainly lots of ideas and issues in this rapidly evolving area - these are just a few thoughts from an excellent workshop.
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