The development of wireless, bioelectronics pacifier is a breakthrough for newborns in intensive care units. It can eliminate the need to draw the baby’s blood invasively two times in a day to monitor electrolytes.
The smart pacifier is also equipped to provide more continuous monitoring of potassium and sodium ion levels. Such indications alert caregivers if the babies are dehydrated, which is a danger for infants, particularly those born premature or with health issues.
The data obtained from use of smart pacifier on a selection of infants in a hospital is comparable to the one obtained from normal blood draws.
A proof-of-concept study explaining the details of the findings is published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics.
Clinically, the chances of survival of premature babies is high if they receive high quality care in the first month of birth. In hospital environments, normally blood is drawn twice a day from the baby that makes two data points. On the other hand, the new device provides a non-invasive way for real-time monitoring of electrolyte concentration of babies.
To draw blood can be painful for the infant, and there is scope for big gaps in information since it is usually done morning and evening each day.
Meanwhile, other methods developed to test infants’ saliva for electrolytes involve bulky, rigid devices that require separate sample collection.
Importantly, researchers used an ordinary, commercially available pacifier to create a system for sampling a baby’s saliva via microfluidic channels. The pacifier if sensed in the baby’s mouth results saliva to be naturally attracted to these channels, and thus does not require external pumping system.
The channels of the device have small sensors inside that measure potassium and sodium ion concentrations in the saliva.