Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, have developed an affordable sensory device that can not only detect a heart attack early on but also predict if a person is likely to have a heart attack in future. The device measures the concentration of two chemicals released into the blood in case of a heart attack and shows the readings on a smartphone.
The device, according to its makers, can save valuable time spent in the diagnosis of heart attacks and expedite the treatment process. The device also eliminates the need of an Electrocardiography (ECG) or even the assistance of a medical professional or a technician to determine if a chest pain is actually a heart attack.
Students Debasmita Mondal and Sourabh Agrawal guided by Soumyo Mukherji, professor in the biosciences and bioengineering, received the Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Award 2018 in March for building the device.
The device can measure the concentration of two biomarkers or chemicals— myoglobin and myeloperoxidase— that are released during a heart attack. Myoglobin is an iron-containing protein released into the bloodstream soon after myocardial infarction – the sudden reduction or blockage of blood flow to the heart that leads to cardiac arrest. Myeloperoxidase is an enzyme produced in white blood cells and released when blood vessels are injured or become inflamed. Higher the levels of this enzyme, higher the risk of cardiac diseases.
“While myoglobin can detect an oncoming heart attack at a very early stage, it is the measurement of myeloperoxidase that has been pathbreaking for us. If there is high level of myeloperoxidase, it means s/he has endothelial instability, which means that the inner layer of blood vessel is unstable and a part of it may shed off. This part can go and get stuck in a smaller artery, causing a heart attack,” explained Mukherjee.
“This means that s/he may not be having a heart attack immediately but is definitely a candidate for heart attack. It could happen in two months, six months or even a year down the line so one can start with precautionary measures right away,” he said.
The device has two parts— an electronic reader and a sensory device. A drop of blood is placed on the sensor. When the blood of a patient who has suffered a heart attack comes in contact with the sensor, both chemicals bind to the sensor and hinder the flow of current through the sensor. This impedance is then measured across different frequencies of the input voltage. The sensor connects to a module in the smartphone through the audio jack on the phone to give a reading. The device is powered by the phone and small enough to be carried in the pocket.
Currently. the test takes about 15-20 minutes to give a result but the team is working to reduce the time to under five minutes. The device is currently made at a cost of Rs 5,500 but researchers feel that when the device is produced at a commercial scale, the cost could come down to Rs1,500.
“Only the cartridges have to be replaced and the sensor is biodegradable, it can also be disposed of without harming the environment,” said Mondal adding that clinical trials will begin within six months to a year.