Believe you’re under stress? Or are you under stress and don’t realize it? Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) have developed a new test that can measure common stress hormones using sweat, blood, urine, or saliva. The researchers hope this paves the way to develop a simple device that patients can use at home to monitor their health.
The research appears in the journal American Chemical Society Sensors.
The test is designed to help patients determine if they are at the point where professional help is needed, according to Andrew Steckl, an Ohio Eminent Scholar and professor of electrical engineering in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. “I wanted something that’s simple and easy to interpret,” Steckl says.
The device developed by UC researchers uses ultraviolet light to measure stress hormones in a drop of blood, sweat, urine, or saliva. According to Steckl, these stress biomarkers are present in varying quantities in all of these fluids.
“It measures not just one biomarker but multiple biomarkers. And it can be applied to different bodily fluids. That’s what’s unique,” Steckl says.
Part of the inspiration for Steckl’s research has been his personal experience trying to help his father battle through a health crisis. The research cemented Steckl’s belief that a home test for various health concerns would be helpful.
“I had to take him quite often to the lab or doctor to have tests done to adjust his medication. I thought it would be great if he could just do the tests himself to see if he was in trouble or just imagining things,” says Steckl. “This doesn’t replace laboratory tests, but it could tell patients more or less where they are.”
UC was granted project funding from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Air Force Research Lab. The military has an obvious interest in such a study, according to Steckl, because of the stress pilots face during flight.
Beyond the military, Steckl believes the UC device has widespread applications.
“You’re not going to replace a full-panel laboratory blood test. That’s not the intent,” says Steckl. “But if you’re able to do the test at home because you’re not feeling well and want to know where you stand, this will tell whether your condition has changed a little or a lot.”