1. Scientists developing sensors to go beyond recording just heartbeats, but will they be as efficient?

Scientists developing sensors to go beyond recording just heartbeats, but will they be as efficient?

here is not a time when we don't want technology to better our lives. While it may not have made life easier for everybody, it has certainly provided viable and easy solutions for diabetics.

By: | New Delhi | Published: April 8, 2017 3:10 AM
A team of scientists announced that we may be closing in on the dream of continous monitoring of glucose levels.

There is not a time when we don’t want technology to better our lives. While it may not have made life easier for everybody, it has certainly provided viable and easy solutions for diabetics. In earlier times, there were no portable monitors to track one’s daily blood glucose levels, but glucomonitors helped fill that gap. Since then advancements have only been incremental, people still use prick and test approach with monitors requiring less blood to analyse results. Though scientists have used tears to effectively monitor gluscose levels, the technology has been in development stages for years now. Recently, however, a team of scientists announced that we may be closing in on the dream of continous monitoring of glucose levels. All this would require is for the person to wear contact lenses with transparent biosensors which would track a person’s glucose levels all throughout the day rather than just at points of time for more effective monitoring. That is not all these lenses may be able to do—scientists believe these could potentially be used to track drug-use or serve as an early detection system for cancer and other serious medical conditions.

Although with bands and smartwatches, heart rate is the most we can measure today, advances in science go far and beyond the band. Eyes, too, may not be the only window to the body. A research published in IEEE three years ago shows that scientists have been able to use sweat as a biomarker for monitoring proteins, electrolytes and metabolites in the body, with use of nothing but a patch and an app. So, basically all one has to do is wear a patch all day long to monitor her health. Another research published last year, highlighted that patches may turn into smart patches, not just monitoring our health but also releasing medicine as and when the body wants it. But patches are not all there is to sensing technologies, smart tattoos are another usecase for sensors and scientists from University of Illinois and Singapore are working on creating a few which can check for arrhythmia, sleep disorders amongst other things.

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But as comfortable or uncomfortable these technological advances may be, are these viable? All these technologies are still years from development. That doesn’t mean it is the end of test labs. As complex and sophisticated as these sensors may be, they would not be able to fully diagnose diseases and a person would still have to rely on CT scans, X-rays for the diagnosis. That shouldn’t mean that these devices may be rendered completely useless. Doctors often want a continued monitoring of patients’ vitals—though not accurate as one would want, these devices do fulfil that requirement.

Venturing into the more bizzare, with scientists going into nanoscale sensors, these are injectable or ingestible, the solutions may be much more advanced that we can think about. According to phys.org, researchers from ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) have developed such systems. These nanoscale devices are so minute that they can identify ultra-small amounts of cytokines in and around cells and the best part they work only on those that release cytokines.

But, what about acceptability? Though it has taken us time to adopt heart rate monitors and bands, the first adoption is always the one that is difficult. With people getting more accustomed to sensors, by the time scientists develop much more advanced ones, the transition may not be as difficult. Moreover, the push, if it doesn’t come from humans, may come from corporations with insurance companies providing cover only for those that wear these sensors. With most companies handing out incentives only to those who use activity monitors, it is not unfathomable that they would not push for advanced sensors once they enter the market. Even though some people may resist it, escape would be impossible for those that wish to live in a changing world.

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