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Experimental Smartwatch Tracks Medication Levels

Credit: Jialun Zhu, Shuyu Lin, and Yichao Zhao

No needles necessary, thankfully.

If you have a health condition that requires you to monitor your body chemistry on a regular basis, it can all become a rather tiring process. The best way to monitor your body’s chemistry is to get blood samples, of course, but constant blood testing can be expensive, time-consuming, and besides everything, just thinking about getting a needle in me on a regular basis makes me nauseous. Could there be a better means of tracking your body’s chemistry that isn’t so involved? Well, there just might be.

Engineers at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, with some assistance from the Stanford School of Medicine, have developed a new kind of smartwatch that can track the amount of a particular medication flowing through a patient’s body. Before you ask, no, there’s no needles in the watch. We’re not doing a Zero Escape thing here. Rather, the watch is able to detect the presence of specified meds through simple sweat analysis.

Not only is this far simpler and less squicky, but it opens the potential for much more carefully crafted medical care. A patient’s weight, blood type, and other relevant data can be entered into the watch, so it has a much more accurate reading of your body chemistry and how your medication plays into it. Instead of just taking uniform pills and making educated guesses, patients could receive medication at more carefully regulated doses.

Credit: FDA

“We wanted to create a wearable technology that can track the profile of medication inside the body continuously and non-invasively,” said study leader and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UCLA Sam Emaminejad. “This way, we can tailor the optimal dosage and timing of the intake for each individual. And using this personalization approach, we can improve the efficacy of the therapeutic treatments.”

The watch can also be coded to monitor the presence and levels of very specific drugs, which in addition to the aforementioned medication monitoring, could also be used to monitor those in drug abuse rehab. More than anything else, I’m just psyched about the no needles thing. Needles are awful.