Wearable Devices for Early Disease Monitoring and Diagnosis

May 15, 2018
Kevin Hattori

Researchers from the Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed an integrated system for early diagnosis of diseases using wearable monitors. Able to continuously monitor physiological indicators without disturbing the user, the system can repair itself in the event of a tear or scratch, and receives the energy required for operation from the wearer.This could help spare patients much pain and suffering, greatly reduce medical expenses, and provide extensive and detailed information for epidemiological studies. The system was presented in a review paper published in Advanced Materials by Technion Professor Hossam Haick and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Weiwei Wu (who is now a professor at Xidian University in China).

Professor Hossam Haick

Wearable devices for medical monitoring are gaining momentum, because they provide a convenient and inexpensive platform for the continuous collection of medical information without the need for invasive procedures. Such devices enable early disease monitoring, before outbreaks, and earlier and more efficient treatment. They can be attached to shirts, jewelry, sweatshirts, watches, shoes, and glasses, and allow the user to go about his or her day without interruption. As a result, such devices are expected to encourage people to be proactive about their health and to reduce avoidance of medical examinations.

“Normal health is characterized by known markers such as 60 to 100 heart beats per minute and 7 to 8 breaths per minute,” said Prof. Haick. “If we detect dramatic changes in the various markers in real time, we can refer the patient to a more comprehensive diagnosis and prevent disease from developing or worsening.”

The system developed at the Technion contains sensors and tools that process the data and transmit it to the authorized medical authority. It combines a series of innovative elements that provide unprecedented monitoring capability:

  • A combination of precise sensing and advanced analysis tools
  • The energy it requires for operation is derived from the wearer’s body (movements and body heat)
  • The device is made of advanced self-healing materials in case of a scratch or cut

The energy derivation and self-repair give the new device a long lifespan, and prevent the need to turn off the system for repair or charging. “This system will not just continuously monitor physiological markers in the wearer. It also aid the long-term collection of extensive information that may be used for epidemiological studies,” said Prof. Haick.

Although the system’s components already exist, a platform that integrates them all has not yet been developed. It requires a complex array of sensors, a tiny and flexible circuit board for measuring the markers, and components that process the information and transfer it to the cloud. All of these are being implemented in the new system being developed by Prof. Haick’s research group.

About the researchers

Prof. Hossam Haick is a faculty member at the Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering at Technion and a member of the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute (RBNI). He has been recognized primarily due to developing an innovative, non-invasive system for medical diagnosis based on breath. Prof. Haick heads the SNIFFPHONE consortium, which integrates this system into a cellphone so that the data will be uploaded to the cloud for analysis by qualified medical personnel. In 2016, Prof. Haick published an international study in the scientific journal ACS Nano, which examined the unique diagnostic technology he had developed. The study involved 1,404 patients from 5 countries and confirmed the value of the technology for the early diagnosis of 17 different diseases: lung cancer, bowel cancer, head and neck cancer, ovarian cancer, bladder cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer, gastric cancer, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, Parkinson’s (two types), multiple sclerosis, pulmonary hypertension, preeclampsia, and chronic kidney disease. The system diagnoses these diseases with an accuracy of 86% on average.

Dr. Weiwei Wu completed his undergraduate degree in chemistry and a doctorate in physics and materials chemistry at Lanzhou University in China. The present study was conducted while he was a post-doctoral researcher under the direction of Prof. Haick. He is currently a professor at the School of Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology at Xidian University in China.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is a major source of the innovation and brainpower that drives the Israeli economy, and a key to Israel’s renown as the world’s “Start-Up Nation.” Its three Nobel Prize winners exemplify academic excellence. Technion people, ideas and inventions make immeasurable contributions to the world including life-saving medicine, sustainable energy, computer science, water conservation and nanotechnology.

American Technion Society (ATS) donors provide critical support for the Technion—nearly $2.5 billion since its inception in 1940. Based in New York City, the ATS and its network of supporters across the U.S. provide funds for scholarships, fellowships, faculty recruitment and chairs, research, buildings, laboratories, classrooms and dormitories, and more.