New sensor could massively change lives of those with bipolar disorder

29 Aug 2018

A medical sensor used to measure glucose levels in blood. Image: Nata photo/Shutterstock

Researchers believe their new lithium sensor could make the day-to-day life of those living with bipolar disorder far easier.

In the treatment of some of the most common mood conditions such as bipolar disorder or depression, lithium is often prescribed for its antipsychotic properties.

However, the person being administered lithium needs to be carefully monitored because, in the wrong dose, it could prove highly toxic.

Now, in what could make this process a whole lot safer and more efficient for those living with bipolar disorder in particular, a team of scientists from the University of Surrey has developed a new sensor that will be able to safely monitor lithium drug levels.

In a paper published to ACS Sensors, the team said that unlike existing sensors, this one is a substantial breakthrough because there is no need to pre-condition the sensor in solution for hours or on a daily basis.

‘As easy as putting on a T-shirt’

When undergoing lithium treatment, the patient needs to check their levels up to seven times per day after the first dose, with weekly checks thereafter until levels stabilise between two doses. After this, levels are then typically monitored every three months.

The miniature sensors, however, were proven to quickly and accurately detect lithium concentration levels, from clinically effective to toxic concentration limits.

The sensors are also able to detect lithium concentration in the blood even if there is a high concentration of sodium.

“We believe that our new sensors will help many people across the world living with mood disorders, such as bipolar and depression,” said Dr Carol Crean, who was involved in the research.

“Our sensors will give those who are receiving treatment the opportunity to monitor their lithium levels with a stable and easy-to-use wearable sensor.”

She continued: “They will give people a real alternative to the currently available invasive blood samples, making monitoring their lithium levels as easy as putting on a T-shirt.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic