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Handheld device uses sensing tech to predict heart failure

Photo Credit: Adam R. Thomas/RMIT University

Millions of potential heart failure victims may now take preventative steps to avoid their fate with the help of a handheld device that will predict heart failure based on saliva.

According to a recent press release, the handheld device has nano-sensors on the tip of the diagnostic stick, which measure heart disease biomarkers.

This accurately predicts the risk of heart disease, failure or heart attack and then warns users via a simple app.

About the project

The RMIT University is working with a corporate research centre, which champions Australian manufacturing innovation, to research and develop the device for pilot manufacture.

They are collaborating with a Melbourne-based start-up, expecting to hit market by 2021.

The start-up’s CEO shared that the team represented some of the best minds in medical device innovation, design and manufacture.

Of the 400 million people who suffer from cardiovascular disease globally, only 16% 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.

Cardiovascular disease currently accounts for nearly one-third of all global disease deaths each year.

The Device

Research Co-Director of the University’s Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group, Professor Sharath Sriram, explained that this was the first portable heart disease test with such high levels of accuracy.

The sensing technology, which was developed at the University’s cutting-edge Micro Nano Research Facility, was validated in the lab to measure biomarker concentrations a thousand times more precisely than levels in human body fluids.

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.

The corporate research centre funding, which matches contributions from the start-up, is enabling AU$ 3.5 million project investment into addressing the challenge of manufacturing and large-scale production of these diagnostic swabs.

The centre’s CEO and Managing Director explained that utilising advanced materials and adopting high-precision, automated manufacturing processes will allow the swabs to be high value and at a competitive cost.

Being manufactured in Australia, the swabs will also adhere to medical regulatory approvals.

A healthcare design expert from the University, who brings insights into designing the device to be as user-friendly as possible, discussed that 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, human experience is being considered in parallel with the operation of the technology.

Incentivised feedback, through the system, will encourage users to take preventative actions, while machine learning algorithms used to assess results will further improve system accuracy over time.

It is envisioned that the device will also be used to predict cancer risk down the track.

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