A group of researchers at the United State’s California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has innovated a sensor device that can rapidly, reliably and non-invasively evaluate levels of cortisol, a hormone that is associated with stress and anxiety, which may be useful as a device in space to monitor astronauts’ levels of stress in the near future.
Assessing the intensity of physiological stress poses a scientific challenge, but evaluating stress accurately was made possible through the concept of a sensor system on the levels of cortisol in sweat samples. Led by researcher Wei Gao, Caltech have now published details of their work in the journal “Matter”. The stress-sensor device is inexpensive, made from graphene etched with a laser to create a 3D-structure of tiny pores and is coupled with an antibody that is specifically sensitive to cortisol.
According Gao, the said device also has a potential to detect mental disorders such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress and depression, all of which are correlated with changes in cortisol levels.
“Depression patients have a different circadian pattern of cortisol than healthy individuals do,” he explained, with the team pointing out that the device is also very quick for a cortisol response, gauging cortisol levels in just a few minutes.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced that Wei Gao has been selected to be one of six researchers that will participate in studies of human health on deep-space missions on October 2019, in which the team will receive funding to integrate the sensor device into a system for monitoring astronaut stress and anxiety under the program administered by the Translational Research Institute for Space Health.