Wearable cytometry system on flexible PCB with integrated microfluidic polydimethylsiloxane chip, microcontroller, and BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) readout to smartphone (not shown). Image credit: Furniturewalla et al, doi: 10.1038/s41378-018-0019-0
Researchers at Rutgers University-New Brunswick have created a wearable microfluidic impedance cytometer with a wireless connection to smartphones. Their technology could be added to watches and other wearable devices that monitor heart rates and physical activity.
“It’s like a Fitbit but has a biosensor that can count particles, so that includes blood cells, bacteria and organic or inorganic particles in the air,” said Dr. Mehdi Javanmard, senior author of the study.
“Current wearables can measure only a handful of physical parameters such as heart rate and exercise activity. The ability for a wearable device to monitor the counts of different cells in our bloodstream would take personal health monitoring to the next level,” added Abbas Furniturewalla, first author of the study.
The plastic wristband includes a flexible circuit board and a biosensor with a channel, or pipe, thinner than the diameter of a human hair with gold electrodes embedded inside.
It has a circuit to process electrical signals, a micro-controller for digitizing data and a Bluetooth module to transmit data wirelessly.
Blood samples are obtained through pinpricks, with the blood fed through the channel and blood cells counted.
The data are sent wirelessly to a smartphone with an app that processes and displays data.
“There’s a whole range of diseases where blood cell counts are very important. Abnormally high or low white blood cell counts are indicators of certain cancers like leukemia, for example,” Dr. Javanmard said.
“Next-generation wristbands could be used in a variety of biomedical and environmental applications. Patients would be able to continuously monitor their health and send results to physicians remotely.”
“This would be really important for settings with lots of air pollutants and people want to measure the amount of tiny particles or dust they’re exposed to day in and day out. Miners, for example, could sample the environment they’re in.”
The results were published in the July 30, 2018 issue of the journal Microsystems & Nanoengineering.
Abbas Furniturewalla et al. 2018. Fully integrated wearable impedance cytometry platform on flexible circuit board with online smartphone readout. Microsystems & Nanoengineering 4, article number: 20; doi: 10.1038/s41378-018-0019-0