Scientists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have created a new miniature biomedical device that keeps track of five key substances in blood.
The device, which will transmit the data in real time to care providers, measures the levels of the metabolites glucose, lactate and bilirubin, as well as the ions calcium and potassium. Together, these blood indicators can help medical staff detect changes in the state of patients in intensive care units.
“We embedded biosensors in it to measure several different substances in the blood or blood serum along with an array of electronics to transmit the results in real time to a tablet via Bluetooth,” said Dr Sandro Carrara, a scientist at EPFL’s Integrated Systems Laboratory (LSI).
“Nowadays, several of these levels are measured periodically. But in some cases, any change in level calls for an immediate response, something that is not possible with the existing systems.”
Using 3D printing, the team was able to produce a prototype that they say is no larger than a pack of chewing gum. It can be connected to a drainage tube that is already in place, and the researchers claim it is significantly less intrusive than the array of devices it is intended to replace, making it easier to deliver medical care to the patient.
The prototype has already been tested on rodents, and the team is in discussion for tests to be carried out at the University Hospital of Lausanne (CHUV). It was unveiled this week at the BioCAS Conference in Atlanta, and according to Carrara has already attracted the attention of a number of manufacturers.
“We could hit the market in two to three years,” he said.