An Injectable Sensor Makes Real-Time Monitoring of Alcohol Use Possible

A team of researchers from the bioengineering department of University of California, San Diego (UCSD) has invented an injectable sensor that can help in continuous and long-term monitoring of alcohol use by wirelessly connecting to a wearable device. The discovery could be a breakthrough in alcohol addiction recovery.

Research lead Drew Hall said that the device is meant to be a therapeutic intervention for the management of alcoholism and other diseases contributed by it. The chip with 1 square millimeter surface area is small enough to be injected under the skin with the help of a 16-gauge needle. The chip contains alcohol oxidase coated sensor which yields a by-product on interacting with alcohol which can be detected electrochemically.

The greatest advantage of using a biosensor is that it is long-lasting, continuous and dependable. Since it’s inside the body, there’s no chance of the device falling off and getting lost.

The current tools to monitor alcohol use are blood tests and breathalyzers which are used intermittently with an appropriate equipment. Their limitation is that they yield information for a short duration of time. In addition, these methodologies are used for detecting excessive alcohol consumption while the sensor could detect even smaller traces of alcohol. This can help a person get timely alcohol addiction support.

Expansions in the area of alcohol monitoring

Apart from biosensors, certain noninvasive technologies have also been developed in alcohol monitoring domain, like wearable bracelets, patches and tattoos. In 2015, a team at Jacobs School of Engineering in UCSD developed a tattoo to detect the amount of alcohol and share information via smartphone.

However, it could be used only for intermittent tracking. It lacked efficacy in providing continuous monitoring. A number of companies also developed wearable bracelets like Milo, Quantac and BACtrack with the help of funding from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

benefits of injectable sensor

One of the characteristic features of the sensor is that it works on extremely low power. It consumes one-millionth of the power required to make a call from a smartphone. Since the sensor doesn’t have a battery, it’s very small in size and free from toxic components, it is an easily injectable device.

Interestingly, the team mimicked the environment of a human body to test the sensor. Now it is working on other sensors that could detect substances like opioids. The sensor is also likely to help in situations where alcohol monitoring is necessitated by the law enforcement or health and professional bodies for the employees. Since it’s an invasive device, it would require an individual’s consent. But at the same time, it will remove the need to go to a physical location for regular checkups.

Alcohol dependence treatment

It is easy to get trapped in addiction but difficult to snap out of it. It takes months and years to gain sobriety and the path is full of challenges. Recovery is possible with determination, patience and perseverance. The earlier one gets alcohol addiction support to start a new lease of life, the better it is.

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