Researchers develop test that detects stress levels
Scientists have developed a new test, using ultraviolet light which can easily measure common stress hormones using sweat, blood, urine or saliva.
Stress is often called "the silent killer" because of its stealthy and mysterious effects on the heart and mental health.
"I wanted something that's simple and easy to interpret," said Andrew Steckl, an Ohio Eminent Scholar.
"This may not give you all the information, but it tells you whether you need a professional who can take over," Steckl said.
UC researchers developed a device that uses ultraviolet light to measure stress hormones in a drop of blood, sweat, urine or saliva. These stress biomarkers are found in all of these fluids, albeit in different quantities, Steckl suggested.
"It measures not just one biomarker but multiple biomarkers. And it can be applied to different bodily fluids. That's what's unique," he explained.
Findings of the study were published in the Journal of ACS Sensors.
Steckl has been studying biosensors for years in his Nanoelectronics Laboratory. The latest journal article is part of a series of research papers his group has written on biosensors, including one that provides a review of methods for point-of-care diagnostics of stress biomarkers.
Personal experience helping his father with a health crisis informed his research and opinion that a home test for various health concerns would be incredibly helpful.
But the UC device has widespread applications, Steckl said. His lab is pursuing the commercial possibilities.
"You're not going to replace a full-panel laboratory blood test. That's not the intent," Steckl said. "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."
"Stress harms us in so many ways. And it sneaks up on you. You don't know how devastating a short or long duration of stress can be. So many physical ailments such as diabetes, high blood pressure and neurological or psychological disorders are attributed to stress the patient has gone through. That's what interested me," said UC graduate Prajokta Ray, the study's first author.
According to Ray, Stress has been a hot topic over the past couple years. Researchers have tried very hard to develop a test that is cheap and easy and effective and detect these hormones in low concentrations. This test has the potential to make a strong commercial device. It would be great to see the research go in that direction.