Biodegradable piezoelectric sensor monitors lungs, brain

UConn’s Thanh Duc Nguyen has developed a biodegradable pressure sensor to monitor chronic lung disease, swelling of the brain, and other health issues.

It is small and flexible and designed to replace existing, potentially toxic, implantable pressure sensors. Those sensors must be removed, subjecting patients to another invasive procedure, prolonging recovery, and increasing infection risk.

The piezoelectric device can also be used for electrical stimulation of tissue, as it emits a small electrical charge when pressure is applied. Other potential applications include monitoring glaucoma, heart disease, and bladder cancer.


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Lung function analyzed via phone, from anywhere

Mayank Goel and University of Washington colleagues have developed SpiroCall, a system that measures lung function by analyzing a caller’s voice via smartphone, landline or payphone microphone.

An algorithm uses the phone microphone as an uncalibrated pressure sensor.  Captured audio is converted into an estimate of the flow-rate of air exiting from a patient’s mouth.

Lung function estimates are provided despite varying audio quality. One second of silence before the start of the test gauges ambient noise levels. If it is too noisy, a patient is asked to move, or to call back at another time.

SpiroCall’s results were 6.2 percent less accurate than hospital spirometers.  While not perfect, this solution could save many lives in areas where regular doctor visits are not possible.


Wearable Tech + Digital Health NYC – June 7, 2016 @ the New York Academy of Sciences

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Stethoscope software analyzes lung sounds

Hiroshima University and Fukushima Medical University researchers have created software and an electronic stethoscope to classify lung sounds into five common diagnostic categories.

Currently, doctors listening to heart and lung sounds on a stethoscope need to overcome background noise and recognize multiple irregularities. The system will be able to “hear” what a doctor might miss, and automatically identify multiple lung problems.

Recorded lung sounds of 878 patients were classified by respiratory physicians. The diagnoses were turned into templates, to create a mathematical formula that evaluates the length, frequency, and intensity of lung sounds. Software analyzed sound patterns during patient exams enable respiratory diagnoses.


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Respiratory motion system for improved lung tumor imaging

U of T professor Shouyi Wang has developed a mathematical model based, personalized respiratory motion system for more precise lung tumor imaging.

Respiratory gating, or a patient’s motion breath-by-breath, is monitored,  and the data is used to focus a radiology beam on the target when the chest cavity is relaxed.  This is the stage that provides the best picture of a cancerous site.

Current techniques depend on expensive, uncomfortable, scanning equipment pressed on a patient’s chest.  This often produces only moderately accurate images.


Wearable Tech + Digital Health San Francisco – April 5, 2016 @ the Mission Bay Conference Center

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Wearable Tech + Digital Health NYC – June 7, 2016 @ the New York Academy of Sciences

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Ingestible sensor continuously monitors heart, breathing rates

MIT researchers are developing ingestible sensors that measure heart  and breathing rates from within the gastrointestinal tract using sound waves.

This type of sensor could make it easier to assess trauma patients, monitor soldiers in battle, perform long-term evaluation of patients with chronic illnesses, or improve training for professional and amateur athletes, the researchers say.

The team, led by Giovanni Traverso and Gregory Ciccarelli, created signal processing systems that distinguish the sounds produced by the heart and lungs from each other, as well as from background noise produced by the digestive tract and other parts of the body.

The sensor consists of a microphone in a silicone capsule, plus electronics that process the sound, and wirelessly send radio signals to an external receiver within 3 meters.

In a related development, Jawbone’s CEO recently described swallowable sensors in development. (See ApplySci, October 10, 2015.)

Click to view MIT video.

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Phone tracks health with out wearable sensors

Javier Hernandez Rivera of Rosalind Picard‘s Affective Computing Group at MIT is developing a health monitoring phone that does not require a wearable.  BioPhone derives biological signals from a phone’s accelerometer, which the team says captures small body movements that result from one’s heart beating and chest rising and falling.

Hernandez said that BioPhone is meant to gather data during still moments, simplifying the capture of small vibrations without having to account for many body movements.   He believes that this can detect stress, which could trigger the phone to provide breathing exercises, or notify a loved one to call.

12 subjects sat, stood, and lied down, before and after pedaling a bike, with a smartphone in their pocket.  To compare results,  they wore sensors to capture heart and breathing rates. Heart rates reported by smartphone data alone were off by 1 beat per minute, and breathing rates were off by 1/4 of a breath per minute.

MIT Technology Review reported that the findings were questioned by a U of Alabama mobile health expert, who believes  that results will be affected by signal noise from inadvertent motions.

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Phone sensor detects asthma attacks, triggers

Wing by Sparo Labs is a crowdfunded smartphone attachment that detects early signs of asthma attacks.

Its sensor works with a companion app to measure FEV1 (how much air one can exhale in one second) and Peak Flow (how fast one can exhale).

The company claims that data it collects over time by can allow users to visualize lung function and detect environmental and medication triggers.  In addition to asthma, they believe it could be used to monitor and manage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and pulmonary fibrosis.

Piezoelectric sensor car seat monitors respiration, heart rate

Faurecia‘s “Active Welness” car seat monitors respiration and heart rate with embedded piezoelectric sensors.  The goal is to detect driver stress or alertness.  When low energy is detected, the seat responds with specific massage patterns and air flow through the ventilation system.  The non-contact sensors were developed by Hoana Medical.  Combined with advanced algorithms and signal processing, Faurecia claims that they can accommodate noise and vibration from the moving vehicle without compromising effectiveness.

Phone sensors measure oxygen saturation with out pulse oximeter

MoveSense allows oxygen saturation to be monitored  by phone sensors with what its developers describe as medical accuracy.  A mobile phone must be carried in one’s pocket, and no pulse oximeter is required.  The technology was developed by Bruce Schatz at the University of Illinois.

In a study, patients wore pulse oximeters (for comparison) and carried phones with MoveSense, which continuously recorded saturation and motion. Continuous saturation defined categories corresponding to status levels, including transitions. Continuous motion was used to calculate eight gait parameters from the data. Their existing gait model was then trained with these data points and used to predict transitions in oxygen saturation.

The researchers  discovered that analysis of the saturation, combined with the gait data, could predict saturation with 100 percent accuracy. The model accounts for patients walking faster and slower, which impacts their hearts and lungs.

3D printed airway splints restore breathing

At the University of Michigan, three children under 2 with tracheobronchomalacia had 3D printed devices implanted to open their airways and restore their breathing.

Professors Glenn Green and Scott Hollister were able to create and implant customized tracheal splints for each patient. The device was created directly from CT scans of their tracheas, integrating an image-based computer model with laser-based 3D printing to produce the splint.

The splint was sewn around the patient’s airways to expand the trachea and bronchus and give it a skeleton to aid proper growth. It is designed to be reabsorbed by the body over time. The growth of the airways were followed with CT and MRI scans, and it was shown to allow airway growth for all three patients.

The findings suggest that early treatment of tracheobronchomalacia may prevent complications of conventional treatment such as a tracheostomy, prolonged hospitalization, mechanical ventilation, cardiac and respiratory arrest, food malabsorption and discomfort. None of the devices implanted in this study have caused complications.

The bioresorable splints enabled the patients to come off of ventilators and ended their need for paralytics, narcotics and sedation.  Researchers noted improvements in multiple organ systems.  The patients were also relieved of immunodeficiency-causing proteins that prevented them from absorbing food so that they no longer needed intravenous therapy.

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