Repeated exposures to addictive substances and psychosocial stress are associated with myriad human diseases (e.g., cancer, drug addiction, heart disease, and depression) of tremendous public health burden. However, our progress in the understanding of how exposures to addictive substances and psychosocial stress interact with genetic factors in the etiology of prevalent human diseases is hindered by the lack of technology to collect precise, accurate and objective data to measure personal exposure to both addictive substances and to psychosocial stress, in real time and in an individual's natural environment. In this trans-disciplinary research project, we propose to develop and validate a new field-deployable tool called AutoSense, to measure personal exposure to alcohol and psychosocial stress by leveraging recent developments in wireless sensor network technology, and innovative approaches in the use of wearable sensors for the non-invasive, real-time, and continuous biochemical assessment of human interstitial fluid. AutoSense will be based on a highly versatile, portable, affordable, and de-facto wireless sensor network platform with a microprocessor and wireless transceiver, called Mote, which is already being used in several embedded sensing applications, including ambulatory patient monitoring. There are three specific aims of this project. First, we propose to integrate an existing ISF alcohol sensor in AutoSense. This sensor developed by SpectRx Inc. non-invasively collects ISF samples to detect levels of alcohol present in a subject's body and automatically calibrates to discern changes in blood alcohol levels. We will also integrate several other existing physiological sensors on the Mote to assess physiological responses related to stress, including skin temperature, skin conductance, respiration rate, and heart rate. Second, we will develop new software to collect and process physiological data on alcohol and stress exposure, to securely transmit the collected data via wireless channel on a real-time basis, and to command, control, and update field deployed AutoSense devices remotely. Third, we will conduct rigorous lab and field studies to validate the AutoSense device. The goals of the lab study will be to establish the validity of using the ISF-based alcohol sensor and other physiological sensors as measures of biochemical responses to alcohol exposure and stress. The goals of the field study will be to demonstrate the feasibility and reliability of field deployment. Relevance: The AutoSense device will enable researchers to quantify personal exposure to addictive substances and psychosocial stress, as experienced by individuals in real-life situations. Such a capability will advance our understanding of how exposures to addictive substances and psychosocial stress interact with genetic factors in the etiology of prevalent human diseases of tremendous public health burden.
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