Biointegrated sensors for continuous tracking of body chemistry may make health and disease monitoring as easy as turning on your smartphone.
A new device unveiled by San Francisco-based Profusa, goes far beyond measuring of movement, sleep and heart rate. The company demonstrated a wearable biointegrated sensor at CES 2016, which will soon be capable of continuously monitoring a variety of body chemistry stats, including glucose and oxygen levels, heart rate, respiration and more.
Essential reading: Ingestibles coming soon to a store near you
“In between annual physicals we really don’t know what’s going on in our body,” explained Ben Hwang, Ph.D., Profusa’s CEO.
“While fitness trackers and other wearables provide insights into our heart rate, respiration and other physical measures, they don’t provide information on the most important aspect of our health: our body’s chemistry. What if there was a better way of knowing how you’re doing — how you’re really doing?”
Profusa’s novel bioengineering approach overcomes the largest hurdle in long-term use of biosensors to access biochemical information in the body: the foreign body response. Placed under the skin with a specially designed injector, each tiny biosensor is a flexible fiber, 3-5 mm long and approximately 500 microns in diameter. Rather than being isolated from the body, Profusa’s biosensors work fully integrated within the body’s tissue, without any metal device or electronics. The biosensor can last as long as two years, and because it contains no electronics and is completely biocompatible there’s no need to remove it.
Each biosensor is comprised of a bioengineered “smart hydrogel” (similar to contact lens material) forming a porous, tissue-integrating scaffold that induces capillary and cellular in-growth from surrounding tissue. The smart gel is linked to a light-emitting molecule that continuously signals the presence of a body chemical such as oxygen, glucose, or other biomarker.
Adhered to the skin’s surface or held by hand, a separate optical reader is used to read the fluorescent signal from the embedded biosensor. The data is relayed to a smart phone for an encrypted personal record and historical tracking.
Profusa has already received the Transformative Research Award (EB016414) from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at NIH, and funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The first application of the sensor is the Lumee Oxygen Sensing System, which is designed to monitor oxygen levels during the wound healing process. Sufficient oxygen flow through a wound is vital to the healing process, and Lumee can detect low oxygen levels early in the healing process and even before treatment or surgery begins.
Imagine, throughout your day, you could know exactly what your body chemistry was up to. Its nearly here.
The new device will provide users and caregivers with actionable, medical-grade data for personal and medical use. It will also aid in the management of certain chronic diseases such as diabetes. The Lumee Oxygen Sensing System is slated to be available in Europe later this year with other devices to follow soon after.
We have written about this subject before – in our article Wearables, a glimpse into the future.
While some view the merging of technology and physiology as fantasy, reality is showing that this is no longer just science fiction. On the contrary, the beginnings of this process are already underway. By 2020, we believe it is likely that we will rely most heavily on embedded devices – technology that is physically embedded into our bodies.