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"'Stress Test" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have developed a new test that can easily and simply measure common stress hormones using sweat, blood, urine or saliva. The biosensor device is unique because of this ability to measure not only one but several biomarkers. Eventually, they hope to turn their ideas into a simple device that patients can use at home to monitor their mental and physical health.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Addressing stress.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

Stress: being under a lot of it can cause an over load. (Sound effect: blowing steam!) Stress can help you move forward (Sound effect: cartoon footsteps) or stop you in your tracks (Sound effect: skidding). Even worse it can make you sick. (Sound effect: blaeahhh) How'd you like to have your own personal stress tester? A new device developed by engineers at the University of Cincinnati just needs a little sweat (Sound effect: drip), blood (Sound effect: drip), urine (Sound effect: drip) or saliva (Sound effect: drip), to measure your stress hormones, anytime, anywhere using ultraviolet light. While not as complete as a full laboratory test, it can conveniently tell you (Sound effect: train sounds) when you have crossed the tracks into Stress town -- potentially dangerous levels -- and should seek help.

The team has been working at the forefront of biosensors for a while. This one's unique because it measures not only one stress biomarker but several and works with different bodily fluids. Once commercially developed it'll most likely be available as a "point-of-care" unit. So, you can test yourself as often as you like.

Because of an association with everything from heart disease to mental health conditions, and the stealthy way it can sneak up on you, stress is known as "The Silent Killer." Now it has a voice. Simple, straightforward. The new device could be a totally less stressful way to keep tabs on your health. And I can't stress that enough.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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