Temporary tattoos could be the new heart rate monitor

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Scientists from the University of California, San Diego conducted the first human test of a temporary tattoo designed to monitor lactate levels, a development that could offer athletes a new tool for measuring intensity. The tattoos, applied like a sticker, are multi-layered biosensors that detect the amount of lactate in sweat.

Lactate is a byproduct of aerobic exercise. When you run at a comfortable pace, the body removes lactate from the blood. But as your pace increases, so does lactate production. At some point, either because you are running fast or because you maintain a fast pace for too long, the body produces more lactate than it can process, which leads to fatigue.

In theory, by monitoring your sweat lactate level, you would be able to adjust your intensity based on the day’s workout.

Research on the temporary tattoo showed that its biosensors accurately measured lactate levels during exercise, according to the researchers, who published their findings in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Ten cyclists wore the tattoos during a 30-minute workout that increased in intensity over time. The sweat lactate levels measured by the tattoos were compared to the sweat lactate levels collected by the researchers. The biosensor tattoo accurately reflected changes in lactate amounts throughout the workout, the researchers report.

Measuring lactate normally requires a finger prick to obtain a blood sample every 10 minutes or so, a cumbersome method used only at elite level. Biosensors offer a simpler technique that could open lactate monitoring to mass use.

A sticking point could be the relationship between sweat lactate and blood lactate, other researchers point out. But Joshua Windmiller, Ph.D., who is developing the technology alongside the UCSD research team, says these studies are planned and the team is confident of the correlation.

“Our recent research has led us to believe that sweat lactate concentration is directly correlated to the intensity profile that volunteers were subjected to, thus substantiating the merits of the device as a measure of exertion,” a- he said in an email. for Runner’s World Newswire.

Windmiller is currently CEO of Electrozyme, a start-up aimed at commercializing tattooing. The ability to tag lactate in real time and identify lactate threshold – the point at which lactate production overwhelms the body’s ability to process it and tires you out – has huge potential for runners, a- he declared.

Steve Magness, head cross-country coach at the University of Houston and blog author The science of runningaccepted.

“It’s very promising,” Magness said by phone. “That would be the next step up from heart rate monitoring. Heart rate is good but delicate and imperfect. With lactate, you can see how anaerobic the athlete is becoming, which can help you get a more accurate measurement of training paces.

Magness said the obvious benefit would be finely targeted lactate threshold runs, endurance training commonly known as tempo runs. LT workouts train the body to break down lactate, allowing you to maintain a faster pace for longer or run faster.

But since lactate is produced by aerobic activity, it’s an indicator of intensity, he said.

The patches, when fully developed, will provide athletes with information about their lactate levels via watch or smartphone, Windmiller said. The retail product is in an early stage of development. Plans are in place to test the tattoos, which currently resemble a crab (pictured) and wash off after training, with a cadre of triathletes in 2014. A release date is expected in 2015.

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