Wearable devices have become increasingly powerful in recent years, with a growing range of both monitoring and diagnostic capabilities. The latest device of this ilk is a new bracelet developed by a team from Rutgers University that can help wearers predict a looming asthma attack.
The device, which was documented in a recently published paper, monitors lung inflammation and could potentially inform wearers when and at what doses to take their medication.
“Our vision is to develop a device that someone with asthma or another respiratory disease can wear around their neck or on their wrist and blow into it periodically to predict the onset of an asthma attack or other problems,” the team say. “It advances the field of personalized and precision medicine.”
Asthma in the air
When we exhale, our breath condensates, and this is analyzed by a graphene-based nanoelectronic sensor built into the bracelet. The sensors are looking for nitrite, which is a key marker in the respiratory airway.
Currently detecting and monitoring asthma is difficult, with costly and bulky equipment used by patients. As such, there is a real need for something infinitely better and more effective.
By measuring the biomarkers in the wearers exhaled breath promises to enhance our understanding of asthma at a molecular level, whilst also opening the door for more targeted treatment. The sensors were capable of accurately measuring the nitrate in our breath by using reduced graphene oxide. This has better electrical properties and is therefore extremely accurate at detecting the biomarkers used in asthma detection.
“Nitrite level in breath condensate is a promising biomarker for inflammation in the respiratory tract. Having a rapid, easy method to measure it can help an asthmatic determine if air pollutants are affecting them so they can better manage use of medication and physical activity,” the authors say. “It could also be used in a physician’s office and emergency departments to monitor the effectiveness of various anti-inflammatory drugs to optimize treatment.”
The team believe that an increase in airway inflammation can be a reliable warning sign of an asthma attack looming, thus allowing us to take action before it strikes. It’s an approach that bypasses more traditional approaches that rely on looking for outward symptoms such as coughing and wheezing. By monitoring biomarkers instead it provides more accurate detection, sooner.
The team will next be working on a portable, wearable system that they hope to have on the market in a few years time. They’re also confident that they can expand the number of inflammation biomarkers they can accurately detect and measure.
“In the US alone, allergy inflammation, asthma, and various respiratory conditions are all on the rise, so devices that can help diagnose, monitor, and manage these conditions will be in high demand,” they say.
It’s certainly a fascinating project and one that’s well worth monitoring in the coming years.
Whilst not on that level, the VTC Healthcare team and I are undertaking the 100 mile Prudential Ride London event this summer to raise money for Asthma UK. If you would like to support us, you can do so here.