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New Device to Sample Earwax Measures Stress Level

The device can be used at home without clinical supervision

A team of researchers has developed a novel device to sample earwax that can also measure levels of stress in your life, paving the way to monitor depression and stress-linked conditions.

According to researchers from University College London and King’s College London, the new device can be used at home without clinical supervision, facilitating medical check-ups while maintaining social distancing due to COVID-19.

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It may also have the potential to measure glucose or COVID-19 antibodies that accumulate in earwax, the team said in a paper published in the academic journal Heliyon.

“Cortisol sampling is notoriously difficult, as levels of the hormone can fluctuate, so a sample might not be an accurate reflection of a person’s chronic cortisol levels. Moreover, sampling methods themselves can induce stress and influence the results,” said lead researcher Dr. Andres Herane-Vives from King’s College London.

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“But cortisol levels in earwax appear to be more stable, and with our new device, it’s easy to take a sample and get it tested quickly, cheaply and effectively”.

Cortisol has been considered as a possible biomarker, or objective biological measure, for depression, but researchers have been stymied by challenges in accurately measuring cortisol levels.

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The most common technique is with hair samples, but they are more subject to short-term fluctuations in cortisol, and not everyone has enough hair for a reliable sample.

Earwax
The novel earwax self-sampling device is similar to a cotton swab, but with a brake that stops the swab from going too far into the ear and causing damage. Pixabay

It is also more time-consuming and expensive to analyze hair samples, compared to earwax, but until now there has not been a reliable and non-stressful method to sample earwax.

Earwax is well suited for home sampling, as samples can be sent to a lab by post without much risk of contamination.

Want to read more in Hindi? Checkout: कथनी से ज़्यादा करनी पर ज़ोर देने वाले बने दो आदर्श ग्राम

The novel earwax self-sampling device is similar to a cotton swab, but with a brake that stops the swab from going too far into the ear and causing damage.

The tip is covered with a sponge of organic material, with a solution that has been tested to be the most effective and reliable at taking samples.

In their pilot study, Dr. Herane-Vives and a team brought in 37 study participants to test different cortisol sampling techniques.

Also Read: Influenza Risk to Kids and Pregnant Women in Pandemic: WHO

The researchers found that earwax samples yielded more cortisol than hair samples, and the new technique was the fastest and potentially cheapest method.

Dr. Herane-Vives said he is setting up a company, Trears, to bring his earwax sampling device to market, with support from the UCL Hatchery startup incubator. (IANS)

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