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Heart disease testing: A much-needed boon?

Heart disease is India’s leading cause of death. As such, any assistance in detecting such conditions could potentially lead to improved treatment outcomes that could, in turn, lead to significant reductions in mortality.

Heart data concept. Copyright: tribalium123 / 123RF Stock PhotoA new European Union (EU)-funded €5 million/US$5.4 million H2020 project — led by scientists at research institute imed, alongside Ghent University and project partner Medtronic — aims to develop a silicon photonics-based mobile diagnostic device to identify and characterise the different stages of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including detection of stenosis and heart failure.

Last year, it was reported that India had seen a fifty percent rise in heart disease cases according to statements made by doctors at the Meenakshi Mission Hospital and Research Centre in the previous 25 years. Heart disease, as well as other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, have overtaken infectious diseases as India’s most common causes of death. Heart disease accounted for 28.1 percent of all deaths in India in 2016 – more than any other cause of death.

The new project — InSiDe — aims to commercialise and manufacture the prototype device built as part of the previous CARDIS (CARdiovascular disease Detection with Integrated Silicon Photonics) project.

“Together with the CARDIS project partners, we developed a prototype mobile, affordable, point-of-care screening device for CVD. The device enables fast and reliable measurement of CVD-related biophysical signals through minimal physical contact with the patient and minimal skills from the operator,” said Roel Baets, group leader at imec and professor at Ghent University. “The objective of the InSiDe project is to take this CARDIS prototype device a major step further towards proven medical relevance and towards commercialisation.”

The device operates by aiming a low-powered laser at the skin covering an artery. Using reflection and detection of the laser the device can monitor minute movements of the skin caused by the pulse. This allows the device to regulate information such as pulse rate and blood pressure in a non-intrusive manner.

Any assistance in dealing with the blight of heart disease — both in India and across the globe — will come as a welcome boon for public health. Lifestyles across India have altered significantly in recent decades, adopting a closer approximation to a western lifestyle, complete with unhealthy food and sedentary behaviours. This has considerably elevated the risks of many NCDs.

Early detection of conditions such as NCDs is imperative. Devices such as this could be the key to improving diagnostic rates in a disease’s nascent stages, allowing for treatment to take place when it is likely to have the most impact. According to Dr Sandeep Seth, professor of cardiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), fifty percent of those diagnosed with heart failure at late stages die within a year. “Patients often don’t adhere to the drug regimen and lifestyle changes needed to halt the progression of the disease,” he said. “This leads to high mortality.”


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