A new low-power microchip could be the future of preventive health care. Researchers at the University of Virginia are developing wearable technology that monitors a person's health in real time.
The microchip is attached to a person's body and is able to monitor body heat and motion, as well as external factors like temperature and sunlight. The microchip collects this data and then sends it wirelessly to another designated device, like a smart phone. In the event of an emergency, doctors will be able to look at the patient's vitals and respond immediately.
UVA's microchip development is part of a larger nanotech collaboration with the Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) Center headquartered at North Carolina State University.
Right now, researchers are focusing in on childhood asthma and ways to detect an asthma attack before it happens. ASSIST is developing sensors that will work with UVA's microchip to detect body changes as well as environmental factors that could warn of an impending asthma attack.
Eventually, they would like to apply this technology to all kinds of diseases.
"We ultimately intend to have these wearable technologies change the way healthcare is performed, to make it more personalized, provide continuous monitoring so we don't have to only rely on the types of tests we have to do in the doctor's office, but actually be able to provide continuous monitoring remotely and non-invasively for long periods of time,” said John Lach, the chair of UVA's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
While there are some existing wearable health monitors out there, this project is one of the first to offer a compact, low-power device that doesn't require large batteries or other equipment. The microchip gets its energy from sources like body heat, motion and sunlight.
Researchers are hopeful to see their creation on the market within the next couple of years.
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