By James Gamble
A new wearable stress-monitoring device can painlessly measure hormones throughout the day and night.
The U-RHYTHM, developed by researchers at British and European universities, is the first-ever device to monitor stress across a 24-hour period – including whilst they are sleeping.
It is hoped the revolutionary new device will replace time-consuming and painful blood-taking – which until now has been the only way to measure stress hormones – and lead to easier identification of stress-related disease symptoms.
The team additionally developed a new reference system, which promises to improve how diseases of the stress hormone system are diagnosed and treated.
The collaborative research project demonstrates how tracking adrenal steroid levels over an extended period of time can provide better information about how hormone levels change across daily (circadian) and faster (ultradian) time periods.
But, until now, scientists have been unable to define normal, healthy rhythmic in daily life.
Understanding the meaning of a hormonal test can be difficult – or even impossible – if just one time point is measured in the day, as this fails to consider hormonal rhythms.
This can lead to diagnostic delays and missed opportunities for treatment intervention.
In the past, the sole way to build an accurate picture was to take multiple samples of blood during admission to a hospital or research unit – which is both time-consuming, inconvenient and stressful.
The U-RHYTHM device, developed by teams at the universities of Bristol, Birmingham and Bergen, in Norway, and designed by the company Designworks Windsor, is worn around the waist and takes painless and automatic samples from beneath the skin every 20 minutes, without the need to collect any blood samples.
This method also importantly allows sampling during sleep, work and other daily activities for a total of up to 72 hours in a single session.
The accompanying study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, demonstrates the ability of the device by analyzing samples from 214 healthy volunteers over 24 hours.
Using data across multiple time points in that period, the team were able to create adrenal hormone profiles of healthy people in everyday life.
Mathematicians from the University of Birmingham used this data to develop a new class of “dynamic markers” to better understand what a healthy hormonal profile should look like depending on an individual’s sex, age and BMI, amongst other characteristics.
Their findings show what healthy hormonal rhythms look like, and could provide a baseline for new, better ways to diagnose hormonal conditions at a far earlier stage.
Dr. Thomas Upton, a Clinical Research Fellow in Automated Sampling at the University of Bristol and lead endocrinologist in the study, says the results represent a shift in the understanding of how the stress hormone system works.
Dr. Upton explained: “The information we have gathered forms an entirely new reference range which has the potential to revolutionize how diseases of the stress hormone system are diagnosed and treated.
“Our results represent a paradigm shift in the understanding of how the stress hormone system works in healthy people.”
Dr. Stafford Lightman, Professor of Medicine at Bristol Medical School and a co-author of the study, which was funded by an EU Horizon 2020 project grant, added: “Our results provide significant new insights into how the stress hormone system works in healthy people, and emphasizes the importance of measuring change, not just sampling at single points.
“It also highlights the importance of measuring hormones during sleep, which has previously been impossible outside of a hospital.
“The ability to measure the dynamics of hormone secretion across the day and night in patients in their own home will not only improve our ability to accurately diagnose any abnormality in hormone secretion without the need for complex inpatient investigations but the whole diagnostic procedure can be performed from primary care and linked to newly available diagnostic algorithms.
“This will not only provide good, personalized medicine but will also allow the patient to follow their own hormone profiles during diagnosis and therapy and empower better patient-doctor discussions.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Saba Fatima and Asad Ali
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