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Getting under your skin for better health

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Researchers say interstitial fluid could replace blood to monitor health and wellness

Newswise — The next frontier of continuous health monitoring could be skin deep.

Biomedical engineers at the University of Cincinnati say interstitial fluid, the watery fluid found between and around cells, tissues or organs in the body, could provide an excellent medium for early disease diagnosis or long-term health monitoring.

Credit: Mark Friedel
A prototype of a device that can measure interstitial fluid uses microneedles.
« Getting under your skin for better health

In a paper published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, they outlined the potential advantages and technological challenges of using interstitial fluid.

“Why we see it as a valuable diagnostic fluid is continuous access. With blood, you can’t easily take continuous readings,” said UC doctoral graduate Mark Friedel, co-lead author of the study.

“Can you imagine going about your day with a needle stuck in your vein all day? So we need other tools.”

Researchers are looking for alternatives to monitor a person’s health and wellness. Sweat is a good medium for measuring certain things like stress or anxiety because it contains hormones such as cortisol. But the body is stingy with other chemicals that are not so easily released in sweat, Friedel said.

“Sweat glands are big filters that don’t allow everything to pass through,” he said. “So more than half of the things we want to monitor have no access to sweat at all.”

Blood is the gold standard for health monitoring. But people also have liters of interstitial fluid that make up as much as 15% of their body weight.

“The key feature of blood that makes it so advantageous is we understand blood really well,” Friedel said. “If you have something in your blood, we know what will happen to your heart or your liver,” he said.

Researchers said interstitial fluid contains many of the same chemicals in the same proportions as blood, offering a potential alternative to costly and time-consuming lab work.

The study outlined the various ways doctors can sample interstitial fluid, from applying suction to the skin to deploying microdialysis.

“As biomedical engineers, one of our greatest goals is to help people better manage their health by making diagnostics more accessible,” said co-lead author Ian Thompson at Stanford University.

“A big barrier to this accessibility is that most current diagnostics rely on blood sampling, which can be painful and requires trained personnel to perform. Thus, in recent years there has been growing interest in using interstitial fluid just under the skin as a diagnostic sample that is more accessible and less painful to extract.”

In UC College of Engineering and Applied Science professor Jason Heikenfeld’s Novel Devices Lab, students are developing sensors to measure hormones and other chemicals in interstitial fluid. They use microneedles less than 1 millimeter in length that pierce the skin through a tiny patch.

“If you had a splinter, it probably went deeper into your skin than our microneedles,” Friedel said. “They’re generally painless. I don’t feel it most of the time. The most uncomfortable part is removing the tape that holds the device down.”

But even if you don’t know it’s there, your body does, Friedel said. And this minute reaction can affect the test results.

“There’s a Schrödinger’s observer effect with interstitial fluid. Any time you try to collect and measure it, you inherently change the fluid itself,” Friedel said. “If you stick a needle in your skin, your body becomes inflamed and then your [sample] levels change. For continuous biomonitoring, we want to know those concentrations as they are when you’re not being poked with a tiny needle.

“That’s why it’s such a challenging fluid that hasn’t been used outside of diabetes monitoring.”

Still, researchers say, interstitial fluid holds enormous promise for monitoring health through wearable technology. This could help doctors track the efficacy of drugs to ensure proper dosage or provide early diagnosis of illness by monitoring the immune system.

But Friedel said there is still a lot to learn.

“We’re trying to unlock the box and read the instructions inside to understand what’s in interstitial fluid and what the potentials are for exploiting it,” he said.

Friedel and Thompson worked with co-author Heikenfeld, UC’s James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy, the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico and Southeast Missouri State University.

The study was funded through grants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

Journal Link: Nature Biomedical Engineering

Source: University of Cincinnati

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Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy 101: What every student-athlete should know

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(Family Features) You may find it difficult to wrap your mind around the idea of an energetic student-athlete with a cardiac diagnosis. Heart conditions may be more often associated with older individuals, but you might be surprised to learn hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common condition responsible for sudden cardiac death in young athletes. In fact, it’s the cause of 40% of sudden cardiac death cases.

It’s estimated 1 in every 500 adults living in the United States has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, according to the American Heart Association, but a significant percentage are undiagnosed. More than 80% of individuals who experience this condition show no signs or symptoms before sudden cardiac death. While sudden cardiac death is rare, it can occur during exercise or in its aftermath. That’s why it’s important for student-athletes and their loved ones to learn more about this condition and talk to a doctor about their risk.

With proper knowledge and the support of a skilled care team, it’s possible to manage hypertrophic cardiomyopathy with heart-healthy actions to prevent complications or worsening cardiovascular conditions like atrial fibrillation (a quivering or irregular heartbeat), stroke or heart failure. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy awareness and education for athletes by the American Heart Association is made possible in part by a grant from the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation.

What is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common form of inherited heart disease and can affect people of any age. It’s defined by thickening and stiffening of the walls of the heart. The heart’s chambers cannot fill up or pump blood out adequately, so the heart is unable to function normally.

There are different types of this condition. Most people have a form of the disease in which the wall that separates the two bottom chambers of the heart (the septum) becomes enlarged and restricts blood flow out of the heart (obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy).

However, sometimes hypertrophic cardiomyopathy occurs without significant blocking of blood flow (nonobstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). The heart’s main pumping chamber is still thickened and may become increasingly stiff, reducing the amount of blood taken in then pumped out to the body with each heartbeat.

What are possible symptoms?
Symptoms can include:

  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • heart palpitations
  • fatigue

The severity of symptoms can vary, but if you experience them or if you have a family history of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or sudden cardiac death, it may be a good idea to speak to your doctor about whether you have this condition.

For some people, symptoms can get worse and new symptoms can appear over time, resulting in people dealing with harsher effects and a diminished ability to do the activities they love. This decrease in functions can be one of the most challenging aspects of the disease. Keeping your health care team aware of any new or changing symptoms allows them to work with you to develop a plan to manage these symptoms and reduce their impact.

How is hypertrophic cardiomyopathydiagnosed?
Medical history, family history, a physical exam and diagnostic test results all factor into a diagnosis. A common diagnostic test is an echocardiogram that assesses the thickness of the heart muscle and observes blood flow from the heart.

If anyone in your family has been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, other heart diseases or has been told they had thick heart walls, you should share that information with your doctor and discuss the need for genetic testing. Because this condition is hereditary, first-degree relatives, which include siblings and parents, should be checked.

Learn more at heart.org/HCMStudentAthlete.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock


SOURCE:
American Heart Association

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Staying Safe During Summer Vacations: 5 tips for traveling with health conditions

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Watching your health during Summer Vacation

(Family Features) From staycations and road trips to Caribbean getaways and coastal cruises, summertime offers the chance to escape and unwind with a much needed (and deserved) vacation. However, for people living with health conditions like heart disease or stroke, leaving home can pose special challenges.

As travel season takes shape, the experts at the American Heart Association – celebrating 100 years of lifesaving service as the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all – recommends a few important tips to ease on-the-go woes.

“As we look forward to summer, many people will be traveling to spend treasured time with family and friends, or maybe just to enjoy some relaxation on the beach,” said Gladys Velarde, M.D., FAHA, professor of medicine and national volunteer with the American Heart Association. “It’s not always that simple for people who have chronic health conditions that require multiple medications or special medical equipment. There are also considerations for how to maintain your health and not put yourself at increased risk.”

Velarde said that doesn’t mean travel is off limits if you have a chronic health condition. A little planning and preparation can reduce stress and prepare you for your next big adventure.

Check In with Your Health Care Provider
Speak with your primary care physician or specialist about your travel plans and any special considerations related to your health. He or she can offer guidance on any restrictions or precautions you should keep in mind. Carry a list of all medications, including dosages and pharmacy information. Also consider carrying a copy of key medical records and a list of phone numbers, including your doctors and emergency contacts.

Manage Your Medications
Ensure medications are clearly labeled and that you’ve packed enough to last the entire trip. If you’re traveling across time zones, enlist your health care provider to help adjust medication schedules. Some medications require refrigeration; research how to pack them appropriately for airport security and make sure you’ll have a refrigerator in your lodging.

Plan for Transportation
Whether you’re traveling by plane, bus, train, cruise ship or other means, it’s paramount to plan ahead for special medical equipment. For example, if you use a wheelchair, walker or other assistance for getting around, you may need to check in with the travel company to find out how to properly transport your devices.

Master the Airport
During this especially busy travel season, planning ahead can make the airport experience easier. If you have a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, you may need to go through a special security screening. Walking through a crowded terminal can take its toll, so consider requesting a wheelchair or courtesy cart to get to your gate when booking your ticket.

Long flights may increase your risk for blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Consider wearing compression socks and walk around the cabin while it’s safe and allowed to help improve your circulation.

Know the Signs
While it’s always important to know the signs of heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest, it’s particularly critical while away from home. If you or someone you’re with experience symptoms, call 911. Many airports even offer kiosks where you can learn Hands-Only CPR while waiting for your flight.

“Every individual’s condition is unique, and you’ll want to tailor your travel plans to your specific needs,” Velarde said. “By taking a little time now to plan and prepare, your vacation can be just what the doctor ordered to help you unwind and recharge.”

Learn more about healthy traveling at Heart.org.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock


SOURCE:
American Heart Association

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Child Health

Illuminating Global Landmarks: Make NF Research Visible

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Global landmarks are set to illuminate in a stunning display of support for World NF Awareness Day. The Children’s Tumor Foundation (CTF) has organized the “Shine a Light on NF” campaign, which will see nearly 400 famous buildings, bridges, waterfalls, castles, and architectural icons light up in blue and green, the official colors of the neurofibromatosis (NF) cause.

Global landmark illuminated in blue and green for neurofibromatosis and schwannomatosis awareness, highlighting the importance of NF research visibility.
Young man living with neurofibromatosis type 1 surrounded by NF researchers and clinicians

NF is a group of genetic conditions that affects approximately 4 million people worldwide. It is known as either neurofibromatosis or schwannomatosis, and it causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. The impact of NF can be severe, leading to disabilities such as blindness, deafness, bone abnormalities, disfigurement, learning disabilities, disabling pain, and cancer. Despite the significant challenges it poses, there is currently no cure for NF. However, the “Shine a Light on NF” campaign aims to raise awareness and highlight the crucial need for scientific research funding.

The “Shine a Light on NF” campaign, launched by the Children’s Tumor Foundation, has grown substantially over the years. The foundation works in partnership with NF organizations, medical and research institutions, and corporate and media partners around the world to expand global awareness of this rare set of genetic conditions. The involvement of internationally recognized landmarks is a testament to the campaign’s reach.

Landmarks such as Niagara Falls, the National Theatre in London, The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, and The David in Florence are among the many iconic sites that will light up in blue and green this year. This show of unity and support not only raises awareness but also sends a powerful message of solidarity to those affected by NF.

In conjunction with World NF Awareness Day, the Children’s Tumor Foundation is also launching its “Make NF Research Visible” campaign. This initiative focuses on the transformative potential of scientific research in the fight against NF. By highlighting advancements in NF scientific research and clinical care, the campaign showcases the crucial role these efforts play in improving patient outcomes.

As part of the “Make NF Research Visible” campaign, a collection of portraits and stories featuring clinicians, researchers, and patients is being shared. These compelling narratives demonstrate how increased visibility can drive further progress in NF research and provide support to those affected by the condition.

Simon Vukelj, Chief Marketing Officer of the Children’s Tumor Foundation, emphasizes the importance of the “Make NF Research Visible” campaign, stating that it aims to inspire greater support and drive further advancements. By shining a light on the incredible work being done by researchers and clinicians, the foundation aims to brighten the path forward for everyone affected by NF.

Carson McNall, a 16-year-old living with neurofibromatosis type 1, shares his experiences and hopes for a future where NF can be cured. Carson describes the chaos of living with NF at such a young age and dreams of a life free from constant appointments and worries about the future. The “Make NF Research Visible” campaign aims to turn these dreams into reality by amplifying the voices of patients and showcasing how research can transform lives within the NF community.

Neurofibromatosis encompasses a group of genetic conditions that lead to the growth of tumors on nerves throughout the body. The Children’s Tumor Foundation has initiated campaigns like “Shine a Light on NF” and “Make NF Research Visible” to raise awareness and underscore the importance of advancements in scientific research. These efforts highlight the impact of NF on public awareness, diagnosis, clinical care, and ongoing research endeavors towards finding a cure.

As the world witnesses the illumination of global landmarks and engages with the “Make NF Research Visible” campaign, it is a reminder of the power of unity and the potential for scientific advancements to bring hope and transformation to those affected by neurofibromatosis.

For the full, global list of locations Shining a Light on NF, visit ctf.org/shinealight.

For more information about NF Awareness Month and Make NF Visible, visit makenfvisible.org.

For more information about the Children’s Tumor Foundation, visit ctf.org.

About the Children’s Tumor Foundation
The Children’s Tumor Foundation is the world’s leading organization dedicated to funding and driving innovative research that will result in effective treatments for the millions of people worldwide living with NF, a group of genetic conditions that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. Through collaboration with the scientific community, pharmaceutical and biotech industries, and other key partners, we work diligently to accelerate research and development efforts, ensuring that promising treatments reach those who need them. One in every 2,000 people is born with some type of neurofibromatosis or schwannomatosis, which may lead to blindness, deafness, bone abnormalities, disfigurement, learning disabilities, disabling pain, or cancer. NF affects all populations equally, and while there is no cure yet, the Children’s Tumor Foundation mission of driving research, expanding knowledge, and advancing care for the NF community fosters our vision of one day ending NF. For more information, please visit: ctf.org.

https://stmdailynews.com/category/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/health

SOURCE Children’s Tumor Foundation

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