Innovation & Enterprise


UCL startup Trears to measure stress hormone with earwax sampling device

5 November 2020

Dr Andres Herane-Vives has developed a novel method to sample earwax to measure cortisol. The technology could help monitor depression and stress-linked conditions.

Three devices for self-sampling earwax, made by Trears

Andres is an academic from UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London. He's also founder of UCL startup Trears.

UCL Innovation & Enterprise are helping Trears bring their earwax sampling device to market. The Business and Innovation Partnerships team provided advice on the initial direction the company should take. Andres also received mentoring support, industry and growth marketing advice, and help with customer development from the entrepreneurship team. 

Being based in UCL’s entrepreneurship hub, BaseKX, gives Trears access to a network of experts providing investment guidance, support with financial planning and introductions to investors. 

Monitoring health while maintaining social distance

The Trears device can be used at home without clinical supervision, facilitating medical check-ups while maintaining social distancing due to COVID-19. 

Cortisol has been considered as a possible objective biological measure for depression, but researchers have not had an accurate method for measuring cortisol levels. The most common technique uses hair samples, but these are more subject to short-term fluctuations in cortisol, and not everyone has enough hair for a reliable sample.

Andres and his team found that earwax samples yielded more cortisol than hair samples, and the new technique is fast and potentially cheap. 

Read the full story on the UCL News website.


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Photo © Trears