Drawing blood is a common component of many medical tests, but this somewhat invasive process may soon be a thing of the past as researchers at the University of Washington have developed a small patch that adheres to the skin to scan for biomarkers and signs of disease.
The patch is the size of a dime and uses an array of needles less than a millimeter long to attach to the skin and tap into the interstitial fluid. This protein-rich liquid surrounding skin cells offers similar medical insights to blood and can even be superior as it is up to 800 times more sensitive than traditional biomarker tests.
The interstitial fluid has long been recognized as medically significant, but accessing it is difficult with conventional methods. Microneedles have traditionally been used primarily for vaccination and drug injection, but their use to access interstitial fluid opens up new doors in the field of medical care.
According to the researchers, the patch stands to be most beneficial in areas with limited access to medical care where a lack of resources makes drawing blood difficult. Even for regions with ample medical equipment, the patch makes diagnostic tests easier, faster, and less invasive.