Spotting strokes

A hand-held device which could detect the warning signs of heart disease and stroke, could soon be a reality thanks to a £75,000 investment from NESTA.



A  hand-held device which could detect the warning signs of heart disease and stroke, could soon be a reality thanks to a £75,000 investment from NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts).



Across the world over 300 million people suffer from peripheral vascular disease (PVD) and the figure is rising. The condition is an important risk marker for heart attacks and strokes, which might be preventable with earlier diagnosis.


With investment from NESTA, Lachesis and Tennants Ventures, a breakthrough technique is being developed which could have a strong impact on the screening of PVD in diabetics- a group of patients where existing screening technology is unreliable.


The technique, PoDX, is being developed by Dialog Devices, a spin-out from Loughborough University co-headed by Dr. Vincent Crabtree. Dr. Crabtree, whose fiancée is diabetic, was inspired by the plight of his grandfather who died at 55 after having his leg amputated due to PVD, something that may well have been prevented with the PoDX technique.


As well as being unreliable when it comes to screening diabetics, today’s testing techniques require a highly skilled technician and are time-consuming.


PoDX, however, is simple to use, typically takes five minutes and is ideal for a busy vascular clinic or a GP surgery. It consists of a hand-held device which can be used again and again without any discomfort to the patient.


The cardiovascular system adapts to the demands of tissues and the hydrostatic forces acting upon the system. Gravity causes blood supply adaptation as postural changes occur. Large changes in pressure occur in the feet, for example, as one gets out of bed and stands up.


The PoDX technology tests the extent to which the cardiovascular system responds to postural demand. It is hoped that PoDX can detect weakness before it becomes serious enough for clinical symptoms to develop.


The company is currently conducting further clinical studies to confirm the results of small-scale testing on patients at a diabetes clinic which have proved promising and hope to have regulatory approval for the device in Europe and the US within two years.


The development of the technique was made possible by NESTA’s Invention and Innovation programme, the largest source of seed funding in the UK.