News Release

"Smart patch" could be used to detect Alzheimer's

- new diagnostic tool uses skin as a window to the body and brain.

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Swansea University

Dr Sanjiv Sharma of Swansea University with a smart patch

image: Dr Sanjiv Sharma of Swansea University has developed a new ‘smart patch’ that can detect proinflammatory biomarkers of neurodegenerative diseases (such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's) through the use of microneedle technology. view more 

Credit: Swansea University


17 January 2023

Newly developed ‘smart patch’ could be used to detect Alzheimer's

A leading Swansea University scientist has developed a new ‘smart patch’ that can detect proinflammatory biomarkers of neurodegenerative diseases (such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's) through the use of microneedle technology.

This breakthrough in the advancement of transdermal capability would mean ‘smart patches’ could be used to detect certain biomarkers within skin interstitial fluid (ISF) in a “bloodless” manner. 

These patches are comprised of arrays of tiny needles (microneedles) designed to break the skin barrier – in a minimally invasive manner - and monitor the biomarkers of clinical significance. They can be self-administered for point of care diagnosis at GP practices or even at home. This innovative research has the potential to change the landscape of early neurodegenerative disease detection.

Dr Sanjiv Sharma, who previously developed the world’s first COVID-19 ‘smart patch’, comments:

“The skin is the largest organ in the body – it contains more ISF than the total volume of blood.   This fluid is an ultrafiltrate of blood and holds biomarkers that complement other biofluids such as sweat, saliva, and urine. It can be sampled in a minimally invasive manner and used either for point of care testing or real time using microneedle devices.

We employed microneedle array-based biosensing patches as wearable transdermal sensors to detect the proinflammatory cytokine IL-6.  IL-6 is present in the skin ISF with other cytokines and is implicated in many clinical states including neurodegenerative diseases and fatal pneumonia from SARSCoV 2.  We have been able to detect IL-6 at concentrations as low as 1 pg/mL in synthetic skin ISF, indicating its utility for routine point of care, bloodless measurements in simpler settings, worldwide.

The devices we developed are scalable, and the resulting sensor has a short measurement time (6 minutes), with high accuracy and a low limit of detection.  This new diagnostic tool, for screening of inflammatory biomarkers in point of care testing, will see the skin act as a window to the body and vital organs such as the brain.”

This work was done in collaboration with Biomark, ISEP, Porto, Portugal.  Co-author, Felismina Moreira from the School of Engineering, Polytechnic Institute, Portugal comments:

“Biomark ISEP Porto have pioneered applications of molecular imprinted polymers (MIPs) and extended them to different healthcare applications. Together with Swansea's expertise in transdermal diagnostics we have demonstrated that the MIPs together with the microneedle arrays offers a fantastic platform for the development of point of care devices for bloodless testing. These can be extended to diagnostics for cardiovascular, cancer and neurodegenerative disorders.”

Swansea University is currently working with its research partners in UK, Portugal, France and Japan towards furthering the field of transdermal diagnostics and extending it for the development of diagnostic devices for a plethora of healthcare applications.

The paper titled ‘Molecular Imprinted Polymers on Microneedle Arrays for Point of Care Transdermal Sampling and Sensing of Inflammatory Biomarkers’ is published by American Chemical Society.

The IMPACT operation is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and Swansea University.


Notes to Editors:


The Institute for Innovative Materials, Processing and Numerical Technologies (IMPACT) is a state-of-the-art engineering research institute specialising in fundamental and applied research and innovation in advanced engineering, modelling and materials.  The operation has been part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and Swansea University.


As a Centre of Excellence, IMPACT supports the regional, the UK and global engineering economy with collaborative, fundamental and applied research.  The Engineering North building, home to IMPACT, is based at Swansea University Bay Campus and forms part of the College of Engineering – offering a unique colocation facility for academia-industry partnerships within a transformative research environment.


Completed in May 2019, the building comprises of two distinct areas – linked by the central, light filled atrium: a research office building and a laboratory block: with 1,600m2 open plan laboratory space. Together they house 80 single occupancy offices, provide hub space for over 150 researchers and colocation space for 50 industrial and academic collaborators. Externally, the north entrance features a large living wall of plants and flowers, approximately 114m2 square, promoting biodiversity, and providing year-round texture and colour.


The ethos of IMPACT is to foster academia-industry partnerships, promoting cross-disciplinary fertilisation of ideas in the pursuit of new pioneering science and technology.  This will be achieved by bringing together first-class expertise from the College, attracting leading talent and partnering with the World’s innovative companies and regional partners.


Designed to BREEAM* excellent standards, it will provide future proof highly specialised laboratories with a dynamic environment for collaboration of industry and academia. This unique operation aims to attract world leading expertise and significant research funding.


*BREEAM is the world’s leading sustainability assessment method for master planning projects, infrastructure and buildings. It recognises and reflects the value in higher performing assets across the built environment lifecycle, from new construction to in-use and refurbishment.



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