July 13, 2024

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Scientists Think ‘80% of Heart Disease Can Be Prevented’ With This New Tattoo

Scientists Think ‘80% of Heart Disease Can Be Prevented’ With This New Tattoo

Traditionally, heart disease has been considered a condition primarily affecting older individuals, particularly men. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that younger populations, including women, are also at risk.

There are numerous preventative measures one can take to reduce the likelihood of heart disease, such as maintaining a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise.

Continuous heart health monitoring, whether at home or in a clinical setting, is a key factor in preventing the disease, with lead author Professor Nanshu Lu stating that “If that can be done, 80% of heart disease can be prevented.”

To facilitate this, a research team led by Professor Lu at The University of Texas at Austin has created an innovative, ultrathin electronic tattoo (e-tattoo) that can be easily applied to the chest for continuous heart monitoring in a non-clinical environment.

The e-tattoo features two sensors that work together to provide a comprehensive view of heart health, enabling healthcare professionals to detect early warning signs of heart disease.

The findings of this research have been published in the journal Advanced Electronic Materials.

Building upon a previous project involving electronic chest tattoos, this updated version boasts wireless and portable capabilities. These features are made possible by meticulously arranged, compact active circuits and sensors connected through flexible interconnectors and adhered to the chest using a medical-grade adhesive. These transparent devices offer a less invasive and more comfortable alternative to other patient monitoring systems.

At present, there is no readily available solution for extended, non-invasive monitoring outside of medical facilities. While doctors can conduct tests during patient visits, some cardiac problems may go undetected if symptoms are not evident at the time of examination.

Weighing a mere 2.5 grams, the electronic tattoo is powered by a penny-sized battery that lasts over 40 hours and can be effortlessly replaced by the wearer.

This technology offers two crucial cardiac assessments. The first, known as an electrocardiogram (ECG), represents the heart’s electrical activity, while the second, called a seismocardiogram (SCG), involves the acoustic signals produced by heart valves.

Mobile gadgets, such as the Apple Watch, can measure ECGs, while stethoscopes are typically employed for SCG monitoring. However, no portable device currently exists that can replicate a stethoscope or record both assessments simultaneously.

Lu explained that combining these two types of measurements, electrical and mechanical, offers a more thorough and holistic understanding of heart functioning. Analyzing the two signals in tandem noninvasively allows for the extraction of additional cardiac characteristics.

By monitoring and synchronizing these two aspects, it becomes possible to determine cardiac time intervals, a key factor in identifying heart disease and other related issues.

The research team has conducted preliminary tests on five healthy individuals using the device in their daily settings, with a significantly reduced margin of error compared to existing monitoring methods. The subsequent phase entails additional experimentation and validation of these initial findings, as well as extending the study to diverse patient groups.

This endeavor was initiated by a collaborative effort among multiple universities, with researchers receiving funding from the National Science Foundation’s ASCENT program in 2021 to explore chest e-tattoo technology. Over the years, Lu and her colleagues have tailored and enhanced e-tattoo technology to monitor various body regions, such as the hand, and assess different medical conditions, including pneumonia.

The multidisciplinary team includes Sarnab Bhattacharya and Philip Tan from the Chandra Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Alec Alden representing the Department of Biomedical Engineering; Sangjun Kim of the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering; Hirofumi Tanaka, Edward Coyle, Jieting Wang, and Taha Alhalimi from the College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Education; Mohammad Nikbakht and Omer Inan of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Pulin Wang from Stretch Med Inc., an Austin-based company; and Animesh Tandon of the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Pediatric Institute.

Image Credit: Getty