Wearable gear developed for integrated health monitoring, early diagnoses

Imagine that you are wearing a shirt, a watch, jewelry, shoes or glasses that continuously monitor your body functions and suddenly tell you and your doctor that some of your physiological markers have identified diseases in early stages of development. This is not science fiction but an advanced new applicable model developed by Technion chemical engineering Prof. Hossam Haick, who previously developed the Nano-Electric Nose to detect diseases in a person’s breath.

Haick and Chinese postdoctoral researcher Dr. Weiwei Wu developed the model for the innovative system that allows users to continue their daily routine without interruption. The system is operated using energy drawn from its wearer, and can even repair itself in the event of a rupture or scratch. The device is also expected to provide extensive and detailed information for use in epidemiological studies.

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Their work has just been published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Wearable devices for medical monitoring are gaining momentum as being a convenient and inexpensive platform for continuous collection of medical information without the need for invasive procedures. Such devices enable early detection of a disease, before it manifests itself through symptoms. They also make possible earlier and more efficient treatment, thus saving more complicated and expensive medical care later on. The use of wearable devices is expected to encourage people to be more involved in their own health and make it possible for them to undergo fewer medical tests.

Although the various components of the system already exist, no integrative platform has been developed that combines them all – until now. This requires a complex sensor array; a tiny and flexible circuit board for measuring the markers; and components that process the information and transfer it to the cloud and to authorized medical authorities. All of these challenges are being realized in the new system developed by Haick’s research group.

The system, said Haick, combines a series of innovative elements that give it an unprecedented monitoring capability.

“Normal health is characterized by known markers such as 60 to 100 heartbeats and seven to eight breaths per minute. If we detect dramatic changes in the various markers in real time, we can refer the patient to a more comprehensive diagnosis and prevent the development and worsening of diseases,” he said.

The energy production and self-repair capabilities give the new device a long lifespan and eliminate the need to turn off the system for repair or electrical charging. He added that: “The innovative system will contribute not only to the continuous monitoring of physiological markers in the specific user, but also to the long-term collection of extensive information that may be used for epidemiological studies.”

Haick is not only a member of the Technion’s Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering but also of the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute. He heads the international SniffPhone consortium that integrates a breath analysis system into smartphones so that the data can be uploaded to the cloud for analysis by qualified medical personnel.