Spit and shine: new device to measure heart disease

Image credit: Adam R. Thomas

All that is needed to predict a heart failure could be saliva and smart manufacturing, thanks to a collaboration between RMIT University, the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) and ESN Cleer.

The organisations have come together to produce a diagnostic stick that reads heart disease biomarkers.

The nano-sensors on the tip of the stick send a signal to an app which alerts the user to their risk of heart disease, failure, or heart attack.

The project is currently in the process of pilot manufacturing, with hopes to arrive at the market by 2021.

With cardiovascular disease accounting for a third of all global disease deaths, and with only 16 per cent of cases due to genetic traits, the project has the ability to improve screening and prevention, and make a significant impact.

The core of the device is the sensing technology, that was developed at RMIT’s Micro Nano Research Facility, which was validated to measure biomarker concentrations a thousand times more accurately than levels founds in human bodily fluids. With this precision, much greater determinations of risk can be conducted.

“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,” said co-director of RMIT’s Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group, Professor Sharath Sriram.

“Prevention is always better than cure, which is where this technology comes in, adding accurate prediction to the mix.”

Part of the project’s innovation is the usability of the product, without sacrificing on effectiveness. As the product is easily understood and applied by those it is screening, the hopes is that the technology is used more readily than other screening methods.

The project has been realised by matched funding from IMCRC and ESN Cleer, and the product will be manufactured in Australia, to meet medical regulatory standards.

“Utilising advanced materials and adopting high-precision, automated manufacturing processes will allow the swabs to be high value and at a competitive cost,” said David Chuter, CEO and managing director at the IMCRC.