New device is designed to perform clinical laboratory testing by using nanoelectronic technology to measure multiple diagnostic parameters in patients’ homes
Researchers have developed yet another device that takes its readings from a patient’s internal bio-markers. This devices analyzes, then transmits the data directly to doctors’ smartphones to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Developers say use of this system may potentially enable doctors to treat patients in their homes without meeting with them in person.
Mobile Wireless System Designed to Help Patients with Chronic Illnesses
For pathologists and clinical laboratory managers, this research is another example of how technology can be used to take diagnostic testing out of centralized laboratories and put it closer to the patient. This particular miniature device is part of a mobile wireless system designed to aid the elderly and those with chronic illnesses remain independent by allowing continuous monitoring in the home and helping physicians diagnose problems including myocardial infarction early.
The technology for this home-testing system was co-developed by researchers from Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology and researchers from Berlin Charité, T-Systems, and multiple international partners in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)/EU-funded project Nanoelectronics for Mobile AAL Systems (MAS).
The system will monitor multiple diagnostic parameters, such as cardiac markers. It will aggregate the data it receives from wearable noninvasive sensors, then employ a secure Internet connection to transmit the results to the patient’s doctor or a medical center. Smartphone apps display the health data and enable the physician to provide instructions to the patient.
Three Different Sensors Work Together
The system consists of a compact home unit that includes the necessary software, sensors, and analytical equipment. The patient wears non-invasive sensors that can be linked to the home unit for measuring vital parameters. An SpO2 (peripheral capillary oxygen saturation) sensor worn in the ear measures blood oxygenation and heart rate, and uses a Bluetooth module to send the information to the home unit.
A blood pressure monitor relays data to the system via WLAN (wireless local area network). An electrochemical sensor, or nano potentiostat, measures glucose, lactate and cholesterol in the patient’s blood.
The patient also can test for several cardiac markers by filling a cartridge with a drop of blood. A fluorescence sensor in the cartridge uses a laser diode to determine the concentration of several cardiac markers, enabling the patient’s physician to diagnose an impending myocardial infarction, potentially increasing the patient’s chance for survival.
“Miniaturized sensors in the home unit, which can detect traces of the markers down to the nano level, analyze the blood sample,” stated Professor Dr. Harald Mathis of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT in Sankt Augustin, Germany, in a company news release.
Game Changer for Elderly, Rural Patients
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, causing one in every four deaths. Globally, an estimated 7.4 million deaths occurred from coronary heart disease in 2012. And the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the proportion of the world’s population aged over 60 years will double from about 11% to 22% between 2000 and 2050. Therefore, technologies that help older patients remain independent will be even more important as the world’s population ages.
This home-monitoring/testing system could be a game changer for those elderly patients who may have difficulty traveling to and from a medical clinic or laboratory, or who may lack the ability to recognize when they are becoming ill. Patients who live in rural areas are also likely to benefit from the device.
The researchers’ goal of having a device that can test for cardiac markers in the patient’s home to look for signs of a heart attack implies sophistication in the types of analytes measured and the diagnostic algorithms used by the device to determine an answer about the patient’s health condition. That the device is capable of collecting the specimen from an elderly patient at home illustrates how the process of collecting specimens and testing them can be transformed by technologies currently under development.