The microfluidics of the eccrine sweat gland, including biomarker partitioning, transport, and biosensing implications

Biomicrofluidics. 2015 May 15;9(3):031301. doi: 10.1063/1.4921039. eCollection 2015 May.


Non-invasive and accurate access of biomarkers remains a holy grail of the biomedical community. Human eccrine sweat is a surprisingly biomarker-rich fluid which is gaining increasing attention. This is especially true in applications of continuous bio-monitoring where other biofluids prove more challenging, if not impossible. However, much confusion on the topic exists as the microfluidics of the eccrine sweat gland has never been comprehensively presented and models of biomarker partitioning into sweat are either underdeveloped and/or highly scattered across literature. Reported here are microfluidic models for eccrine sweat generation and flow which are coupled with review of blood-to-sweat biomarker partition pathways, therefore providing insights such as how biomarker concentration changes with sweat flow rate. Additionally, it is shown that both flow rate and biomarker diffusion determine the effective sampling rate of biomarkers at the skin surface (chronological resolution). The discussion covers a broad class of biomarkers including ions (Na(+), Cl(-), K(+), NH4 (+)), small molecules (ethanol, cortisol, urea, and lactate), and even peptides or small proteins (neuropeptides and cytokines). The models are not meant to be exhaustive for all biomarkers, yet collectively serve as a foundational guide for further development of sweat-based diagnostics and for those beginning exploration of new biomarker opportunities in sweat.