Scientists have developed a new test that 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 everything from heart disease to mental health. Researchers from the University of Cincinnati in the US hope to turn the system into a simple device that patients can use at home to monitor their health.
“I wanted something that’s simple and easy to interpret. This may not give you all the information, but it tells you whether you need a professional who can take over,” said Andrew Steckl, a professor at University of Cincinnati.
Scientists 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 said.
“It measures not just one biomarker but multiple biomarkers. And it can be applied to different bodily fluids. That’s whats unique,” he said. The device, described in the journal American Chemical Society Sensors, is not intended to replace full-panel laboratory blood tests. “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,” said Steckl.
“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,” said Prajokta Ray, from University of Cincinnati. “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 Ray.
Taking exams always gave her stress. Understanding how stress affects you individually could be extremely valuable, she said. “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,” Ray said. “This test has the potential to make a strong commercial device. It would be great to see the research go in that direction,” she added.