September 23, 2019 | 75° F

Rutgers team develops wristband that analyzes bloodstream for disease indicators

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By counting the number of red and white blood cells in a user’s bloodstream, the wristband analyzes for indicators of common diseases and transport data and information to medical professionals.

A team at Rutgers has invented a wristband that could potentially revolutionize health care. 

The wristband contains small wires that can analyze and count the number of red and white blood cells in the bloodstream, according to a paper published in Microsystems and Nanoengineering. The number of red and white blood cells a person has is a common indicator for many diseases. The wristband also contains a chip that can transmit the data to smartphones, tablets and computers.

“There is a need to achieve portable, user-friendly systems to perform automated blood counts so that patient health can be continuously monitored outside of the lab without the need for professional intervention,” according to the paper. 

Mehdi Javanmard, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Rutgers University NanoBioElectronics Lab, led the team that designed the wristband. 

The project began as an initiative by the National Science Foundation to build portable tools to analyze biomolecules. It later evolved into a collaboration between faculty and students, he said. 

The team included undergraduates such as Abbas Furniturewalla, a Rutgers alumnus who is currently earning his PhD at the University of Florida. Furniturewalla discussed the potential of the wristband. 

“I see this technology being paired with various sensors which can monitor all different types of biomarkers in our blood through microneedles and alert the user and their physician when something unusual is detected,” Furniturewalla said in an email. 

Javanmard said his team envisioned a new model of emergency care in which doctors and nurses can monitor blood-cell count as easily as temperature, pulse and oxygen levels just by putting the wristband on the patient. 

He also sees the wristband being useful for outbreaks of serious infectious diseases. 

“Imagine patients aren’t sure if they have something serious or just the flu," Javanmard said. "They can have their blood tested in their cars outside of the emergency room, rather than entering the emergency room and heightening the risk of infecting themselves or others."  

The technology in the device has environmental implications, as well. He said that it can be used to detect E. coli or salmonella in food, as a well as pollutants in the air. 

There are currently three working models, and mass-producing the device and receiving approval from the Food and Drug Administration will require a significant level of funding. Javanmard’s team is currently courting various commercial entities to receive that funding.

“It can totally change the paradigm in which healthcare is done,” Javanmard said.

Sam Leibowitz-Lord

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