Ashlesha Bhide’s interview with Bio Patrika hosting “Vigyaan Patrika,” a series of author interviews. Ashlesha is currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of Bioengineering at The University of Texas at Dallas. She completed her Bachelors in Instrumentation Technology from M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology in Bengaluru, India, and further obtained her Master of Science degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada in 2014. Subsequently, she worked as a research assistant at the Centre for Nano Science and Engineering (CeNSE), Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, India till 2016 before joining Dr. Shalini Prasad’s lab at UT Dallas. Her research interests are focused on developing wearable platforms for lifestyle management. Her current research is based on developing wearable sensors for non-invasive, continuous monitoring of lifestyle biomarkers in passively expressed sweat. She currently has 13 peer-reviewed publications and has received fellowships and awards for her Ph.D. research. Recently, her latest research was featured on the back cover of RSC Analyst and has gained recognition in the sweat wearables space.
How would you explain your paper’s key results to the non-scientific community?
Identification of diseases in sedentary populations on a timely basis before reaching a critical stage is a continuing challenge faced by emergency care centers. Thus, facile care approaches are required to monitor the health parameters of sedentary populations calling for the need of developing on-demand, single-use platforms for point-of-use testing. Early screening and diagnosis provide initial health intervention through safe, non-invasive, and potentially inexpensive methods for detecting the onset and progression of diseases. The invasiveness of conventional diagnosis techniques requires frequent painful testing procedures posing a challenge for regular screening of disease progression in the elderly and infants. Eccrine sweat is a valuable source of proteins, metabolites, electrolytes, lipids, and other non-invasive biomarkers with less susceptibility to fouling making it a critical tool for frequent monitoring of disease states in sedentary populations. Lactate is one such key biomarker used for monitoring restricted oxygen supply essential for assessing the physiological responses of the user for clinical diagnostics. An increase in blood lactate levels is related to increased production or decreased lactate clearance further leading to conditions such as tissue hypoxia and subsequently leading to septic shock under extreme conditions. Hence, an on-demand sensor can be used for the initial quantification of lactate levels further prompting clinicians to initiate immediate medical actions. This work was a collaboration between ‘Biomedical Microdevices and Nanotechnology Laboratory’ at The University of Texas at Dallas and EnLiSense LLC. The findings from this work were published in RSC Analyst.
What are the possible consequences of these findings for your research area?
The novelty of this work is the development of a non-invasive, point-of-use, stick and remove biosensor for the on-demand measurement of lactate in passive sweat targeted towards sedentary populations. The conformable interface of the biosensors with skin can be engineered to extract relevant biochemical signals and quantify the in situ sweat biomarker levels. In this work, we demonstrate a highly sensitive and specific on-demand biosensor with a unique hybrid nanotextured electrode design embedded within a flexible nanoporous material to capture the temporal dynamics of passive sweat lactate along with providing an on-demand measurement to the user for monitoring elevated lactate levels.
What was the exciting moment (eureka moment) during your research?
The most exciting moment, in particular, was the proof that we could translate the lactate biosensing platform from a benchtop environment to an on-demand platform for sedentary lifestyle management. The biosensor was able to capture the lactate levels of sedentary individuals when placed on-body through passive sweating, which was further validated by a commercially available lactate meter.
What do you hope to do next?
In the future, we plan on developing an on-body sweat monitoring platform with a multiplexed capability to continuously monitor three key sweat-based lifestyle biomarkers – alcohol, glucose, and lactate non-invasively in passively expressed sweat. The integration of the proposed platform on a wearable form factor would enable continuous monitoring of the lifestyle biomarkers in a temporal manner providing the user with warnings to seek medical care.
Where do you seek scientific inspiration?
Inspiration is all around us and the scientific phenomenon underlying our day-to-day tasks motivates me to push myself to further explore and uncover new facets of science. Most importantly, inspiration comes to me from my advisors Dr. Shalini Prasad and Dr. Sriram Muthukumar, my peers, and the scientific community involved in doing innovative research for the greater good of the world we live in. Furthermore, the failures that I have faced have taught me the most valuable lessons and driven me to find newer approaches to solve problems.
How do you intend to help Indian science improve?
In my opinion, Indian science is reaching new heights every day and showcasing cutting-edge scientific research globally. Collaborations with industry partners and academic researchers throughout the world would greatly benefit the growth of Indian science. Another important aspect to further allow Indian science to grow would be to make it approachable and affordable to the younger generation. I think Biopatrika is doing a phenomenal job by featuring Indian research on a web forum and connecting young minds.
Bhide, Ashlesha, Kai-Chun Lin, Sriram Muthukumar, and Shalini Prasad. On-demand lactate monitoring towards assessing physiological responses in sedentary populations. Analyst, 2021,146, 3482-3492. https://doi.org/10.1039/D1AN00455G
Corresponding authors: Dr. Shalini Prasad, The University of Texas at Dallas; Dr. Sriram Muthukumar, EnLiSense LLC.
Edited by: Ritvi Shah