Wearable devices are becoming popular in healthcare services, particularly given society’s increasing interest in health, well-being, disease prevention, and fitness. We’re seeing a paradigm shift toward healthcare that is personalized and controlled by individuals.
The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to significantly impact market growth and has expanded the role of wearable devices in the healthcare sector. As per industry analysts' reports, data is the new oil and becomes even more critical regarding health monitoring. For example, remote monitoring of families associated with individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 can provide valuable data about the acceleration of transmission and symptom onset.
Wearable sensor data may alert patients to forthcoming infection before symptoms become severe. COVID-19, along with other viral illnesses, is associated with several physiological changes that can be monitored using these sensors.
COVID has left no one untouched since its inception in 2019. Recent research published in the Lancet publication entitled "Clinical Features of Patients Infected with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in Wuhan, China," found that a cytokine storm is witnessed as a common phenomenon in COVID-19 patients. This phenomenon is so strong that it is a major cause of death.
Cytokines are glycoproteins produced by various types of cells throughout the human body. Glycoproteins are proteins in many physiological functions such as immunity, communication between cells, and body protection. Cytokines are omnipresent molecules widely present in body fluids such as blood, sweat, tears, saliva, gut, stool, and urine. Cytokines are useful in moderation for the functioning of the body. However, a severe immune reaction in which the body releases too many cytokines into the blood too quickly is known as a cytokine storm. This overproduction of cytokines causes positive feedback on other immune cells, which allows for more immune cells to be recruited to the site of injury. This can lead to organ damage.
Various methods are used to detect the cytokine storm, including traditional laboratory blood tests.
Decreased immune cells, elevation in markers such as CRP (C-reactive protein), elevated ferritin levels, and medical imaging such as X-ray provides clues for cytokine storms related to COVID-19.
Traditional methods of detecting cytokine storms are tedious and time-consuming, with low precision. They do not provide real-time results.
The cytokine storm may have started many hours before it was detected and could have caused much damage to multiple vital organs. It can happen quickly, making it important to treat a patient’s symptoms as soon as possible to minimize damage to the body.
Patients experiencing a cytokine storm have elevated levels of inflammatory proteins (biomarkers) such as IL-6 (interleukin-6), IL-8, TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor-α), TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand, IL-10, interferon-γ-induced protein-10, and C-reactive protein.
Most of the cytokine biomarkers found in blood, which is used for the detection of a cytokine storm, are also found in sweat. Next-generation sensors, the core of wearable technology, can be used to detect the increased levels of cytokine biomarkers through sweat.
Dr. Vinu Mohan, A.M., working as a Scientist at CSIR-Central Electrochemical Research Institute (CECRI), and Tamil Nadu, a recipient of the INSPIRE Faculty Fellowship instituted by the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, have introduced a flexible, low-cost, wearable sensor that can track sweat for monitoring the health and physiological status of the human body (pictured at right).
It can obviate the necessity of blood and other invasive tests.
Image source: Indian Scientist Unveils A Flexible Low Cost Wearable Sensor that Tracks Sweat for Monitoring Health and Physiological Status, IndianWeb2
Ensuring early detection of the elevated levels of the biomarkers (IL-6, IL-8, TNF-α, IL-10, and CRP) through sweat can help in the early detection of a cytokine storm in COVID-19 patients, resulting in less damage to vital human organs.