Scratch That

Look out, Itchy and Scratchy – we’ve got your number!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Scratching, rubbing, wiggling … being itchy is not fun! It can even be a symptom of serious medical conditions like eczema. You KNOW how itchy you are, but how on earth can you explain it to your doctor?  

Keum San Chun from University of Texas at Austin and team were itching to find a solution. So they developed a band-aid that measures ITCHINESS. When placed on the back of the hand, the band-aid captures vibration and movement. Then, a computer interprets the data to detect itch. 

To test their device, the researchers put band-aids on eleven eczema patients for almost fifty nights.The band-aid identified scratching with NINETY-NINE PERCENT accuracy when checked against video recording! 

Researchers hope this device will help physicians determine the severity of the itch. It could also help figure out what treatments work best for the patient. 

Medical breakthrough? We’re just scratching the surface!

Reference: Chun, K. S., Kang, Y. J., Lee, J. Y., Nguyen, M., Lee, B., Lee, R., Jo, H. H., Allen, E., Chen, H., Kim, J., Yu, L., Ni, X., Lee, K., Jeong, H., Lee, J., Park, Y., Chung, H. U., Li, A. W., Lio, P. A., … Xu, S. (2021). A skin-conformable wireless sensor to objectively quantify symptoms of pruritus. Science Advances, 7(18), eabf9405.

Photo Credit: NIAID