The Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium (NBMC), an industry-academia partnership with the United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), has chosen a project proposed by the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (AzCIM) at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, to receive research funding.
The AzCIM project's goal is to assess different sweat collection methods and devices for their ability to collect different volumes of sweat under a variety of human-body conditions, the results of which will help determine the best method for integrating into a wearable sensor system. Funding for the one year program will total $200,000.
As part of the project, at least one analytical method, including offline immunoassay or mass spectrometry-based, will be developed to determine the levels of each of several AFRL-preferred biomarkers in sweat samples collected from multiple skin regions. Two molecules, one small and one large protein, will be selected for analysis from the following biomarkers: Orexin-A (impacts arousal and alertness); Neuropeptide Y (associated functions include stress reduction and lowering pain perception); Interleukin 6 (stimulates immune response); cortisol (released in response to stress); and Oxytocin (associated with various reproductive and bonding functions).
Because the biomarker levels may be low and thus more difficult to detect by some analytical techniques, different methods for sweat concentration and purification will also be assessed. The various sweat collection methods will then be assessed for the desired volume, under a variety of conditions, including whole-body hyperthermia.
Esther Sternberg, M.D., project technical lead and AzCIM director of research, noted, "Participating in this program is a natural extension of AzCIM's research focus on mind-body science. Brain-immune connections are critical in decision-making and alertness, which can be greatly compromised by stress and fatigue, particularly for military personnel and others in high-pressure situations. Trauma related immune activation can also directly compromise performance and brain function. Devising a way to accurately detect these parameters in real time before problems set in, is essential to helping ensure physical and mental wellness for these individuals."
In addition to Dr. Sternberg, the AzCIM project team includes Min Jia, Ph.D., AzCIM research assistant professor, as alternate technical representative. The AFRL program manager for the project is Laura Rea.
"Reproducibly collecting and analyzing sweat in a range of conditions and scenarios is a central challenge of enabling human performance monitoring," said Dr. Benjamin Leever, AFRL Lead for Additive Manufacturing of Functional Materials. "This capability could significantly impact a large variety of Air Force missions."
"AzCIM and Dr. Sternberg possess a sterling reputation for successful collaboration on initiatives that investigate the relationship between wellness and one's environment," said NBMC CEO Malcolm Thompson. "Ensuring that we are looking at the right biomarkers and collecting samples in the most optimal manner provides a crucial foundation for helping achieve NBMC's objective to develop a technology platform for a lightweight, low-cost, wearable biosensor patch."