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Hand-Held Device Integrated with Nanosensors can Predict Risk of Heart Problems

A new portable device that predicts heart failure based on saliva could aid countless prospective victims to take precautionary actions to prevent their fate.

The look and feel of medical devices is hugely important to whether they are used or not, says RMIT University healthcare design expert, Leah Heiss. (Image credit: Adam R. Thomas)

Nanosensors located on the tip of the diagnostic stick determine the biomarkers of heart disease to precisely predict heart attack, failure, or risk of heart disease, and subsequently warn users through an easy-to-use app.

The device is currently being researched and developed by the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) and RMIT University for pilot manufacture. It is expected to reach the market by 2021 through a collaborative effort headed by ESN Cleer, a Melbourne-based start-up company.

Leopoldt de Bruin, CEO at ESN Cleer, informed that the researchers represented some of the best minds in the design, innovation, and development of medical devices.

We’re really pleased to be able to bring these strands together in addressing such a major global health challenge. Of the 400 million people who suffer from cardiovascular disease globally, only 16 percent of cases are due to genetic traits. This underlines how much room there is to improve on screening and prevention, which is where this device could have such an impact.

Leopoldt de Bruin, CEO, ESN Cleer

At present, cardiovascular disease is responsible for causing almost one-third of all disease-related deaths in the world every year.

Professor Sharath Sriram, a Research Co-Director of RMIT University’s Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group, stated that this was the first hand-held heart disease test that comes with such high levels of precision.

Created at RMIT University’s state-of-the-art Micro Nano Research Facility, the new sensing technology was evaluated in the laboratory to determine biomarker concentrations at an accuracy that is thousand times more than the levels present in human body fluids.

This marks a big step forward in technology for screening. Often, blood tests are only conducted after a heart failure episode. Such reactive testing is too late, leaving people with debilitating illness or leading to deaths. Prevention is always better than cure, which is where this technology comes in, adding accurate prediction to the mix.

Sharath Sriram, Professor and Research Co-Director, Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group, RMIT University

The IMCRC funding, which matches ESN Cleer’s contributions, is enabling a project investment of $3.5 million to address the challenge relating to the development and commercial production of these diagnostic swabs.

Utilising advanced materials and adopting high-precision, automated manufacturing processes will allow the swabs to be high value and at a competitive cost,” explained David Chuter, CEO and Managing Director at the IMCRC.

The diagnostic swabs, which are being developed in Australia, will also conform to medical regulatory approvals.

Dr Leah Heiss, a healthcare design expert at RMIT University, is also part of the group. She brings insights into making the new device as user-friendly as possible.

The aesthetics, tactility, and usability of the product has to be balanced with manufacturability and cost. By bringing users into the design process early on, we are considering the human experience in parallel with the operation of the technology,” Heiss stated.

With incentivized feedback delivered through the system, users would be encouraged to take preventative steps, while machine-learning algorithms used for evaluating the results will further enhance the precision of the system over time.

In addition, it is believed that the novel device will be used for predicting cancer risk in the future.


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