While malnutrition is a serious problem, especially in children, more people in the world are obese than hungry, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Obesity can kill by shortening life by up to eight years on average. Although poverty kills more than excess weight, this form of malnutrition is more common in low-income people in middle and high income countries. One in three people is obese or overweight.
Among the possible consequences of obesity are type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure. And all these lead to premature deaths. Being able to measure blood pressure and biochemical parameters, such as glucose and triglycerides, on a regular basis could prevent cardiometabolic diseases, such as acute myocardial infarction and stroke and even cases of sudden death. This is the goal of the chemist, PhD in Nanoengineering, and researcher at the California Institute of Technology (USA), Juliane Sempionatto. To achieve this, she has created the first noninvasive wearable sensor capable of simultaneously measuring chemicals and blood pressure. Thanks to this breakthrough, MIT Technology Review in Spanish has selected Sempionatto as one of the 35 Innovators under 35 Latin America 2022.
With the help of ultrasound that monitors blood pressure and heart rate and noninvasive detection of metabolite levels, such as glucose, lactate, caffeine, and alcohol in sweat, Sempionatto wants to reduce strokes and heart attacks. The young Brazilian explains, "Almost half of diabetes and 25% of heart problems are related to obesity."
Knowing how our body's biochemical levels vary is an early warning system that can prevent strokes and heart attacks by enabling lifestyle changes. The researcher's prototype sensor aims to facilitate this. Sempionatto adds, "Right now the focus is on prevention and treatment and not so much on monitoring the disease. My grandmother had type 2 diabetes and couldn't afford the lancets to measure glucose," adds the chemist. This innovative device, the result of her doctorate, is a low-cost way to prevent heart disease in all social strata. Sempionatto adds, "To move from the laboratory to real life, the project has already found people interested in commercializing the sensors."