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Wearable monitors measure dyes through skin

A mobile microscope weighing one-tenth of a pound could allow doctors to continuously monitor patients at medical facilities or at home.

By Stephen Feller
Wearable monitors measure dyes through skin
The wearable mobile microscope designed by researchers at UCLA and Verily Life Sciences could allow for continuous monitoring of biomarkers for disease or drug delivery. Photo by Ozcan Research Group/UCLA

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Doctors may soon be able to monitor patients for diagnosis or treatment by asking them to wear a small device strapped to their bicep, say researchers at the University of California Los Angeles.

The researchers designed a small microscope that can detect fluorescent biomarkers in the skin, making it possible to track drug delivery or monitor chronic diseases much more easily.

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"We can place various tiny bio-sensors inside the skin next to each other, and through our imaging system, we can tell them apart," Aydogan Ozcan, a professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering at UCLA, said in a press release. "We can monitor all these embedded sensors inside the skin in parallel, even understand potential misalignments of the wearable imager and correct it to continuously quantify a panel of biomarkers."

In a study published in the journal ACS Nano, the researchers describe designing the mobile microscope, which takes a picture of the the skin at an angle to capture a fluorescent image and uploads it to a computer for analysis. A custom algorithm is used to digitally separate the target fluorescent signal from the autofluorescence of the skin.

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Spatial frequencies of a fluorescent image are analyzed by a custom-algorithm to detect the target fluorescence signal through the skin. Photo by Ozcan Research Group/UCLA

The camera weighs one-tenth of a pound, the researchers report, allowing it to be strapped to a bicep or other similar part of the body and may allow for continuous monitoring of patients at home or at medical facilities.

UCLA researchers worked on the device with Verily Life Sciences, a division of Alphabet, Inc., which is working on several other medical devices to monitor or diagnose conditions, including a disposable continuous glucose monitor, robotic surgerical tools and a smart contact lens to detect glucose levels.

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