Science

Thinnest Heart Monitor: Detection Made Easy

By Enozia Vakil , May 18, 2013 09:51 AM EDT
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It's a world of gadgets today, from 'simple' cell phones to the unimaginable nanoparticles used to treat diseases toughest to beat. It's now time to welcome the arrival of a newcomer in the family –– a surprisingly thin, wearable heart monitor that may help detect stiff arteries and other cardiovascular problems.

Engineers from the Stanford University have developed this amazing heart monitor that is thinner than a dollar bill and smaller than a postage stamp. This flexible, skin-like device is worn under an adhesive bandage on the wrist, which helps the doctors detect various heart conditions in a jiffy.

This new monitor may be useful, particularly for high-risk people, and for those who need to be continuously assessed for their heart health.

"The pulse is related to the condition of the artery and the condition of the heart," Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford, said. The sensitivity and the 'thinness' of this special heart monitor is due to the presence of specialized middle rubber surface, covered with tiny pyramidal bumps.

When a pressure is applied, the shape of the pyramids changes slightly, changing the gap between the two halves of the device. This monitor, when placed on the wrist and sealed with an adhesive bandage, the sensor can measure the pulse.

"In theory, this kind of sensor can be used to measure blood pressure. Once you have it calibrated, you can use the signal of your pulse to calculate your blood pressure," Gregor Schwartz, a post-doctoral fellow and a physicist for the project, said.

This new monitor may actually be yet another breakthrough in the field of non-invasive approaches for treatment and diagnostics of different conditions. They could be a good replacement for intravascular catheters, which are directly inserted into the arteries, thus lessening the chances of an infection to a considerable extent.

Also, this heart monitor may prove to be useful in detecting and better understanding the condition of an infant heart before a surgery, which may help them make better decisions regarding the possible approaches that could be used for such critical surgeries.

Currently, efforts are being made to make this device wireless, rendering it more efficient and easy-to-use.

This work is published in the May edition of Nature Communications.

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