A team of researchers at Northwestern Engineering has developed a sticker that absorbs sweat on the skin and then changes color to provide a quick diagnosis of cystic fibrosis.

While measuring chloride levels in sweat to diagnose cystic fibrosis is standard, the soft, flexible, skin-like “sweat sticker” offers a stark contrast to current diagnostic technologies, which require a rigid, bulky, wrist-strapped device to collect sweat. The research and study findings were published March 31 as the cover feature article in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

By softly adhering to the body, the millimeter-thick sticker makes direct but gentle contact with the skin without harsh adhesives. Not only does this make the sticker more comfortable and imperceptible to the wearer, this intimate coupling also enables the sticker to collect 33 percent more sweat than current clinical methods. The high collection rate ensures that one test will consistently collect a large enough sample to provide an accurate result.

The sticker also has built-in colorimetric sensors that detect, measure, and analyze chloride concentration in real time using a smartphone camera, bypassing the need for expensive laboratory equipment and excruciating wait times. This opens possibilities for testing outside of hospitals in the home setting, which could provide relief to parents in rural or low-resource areas without access to clinical centers with specialized diagnostic tools.

Get the full story mccormick.northwestern.edu.