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Their wearable biosensor technology – which features a “microfluidic impedance cytometer” that can measure blood cell counts or other biomedical data – could be added to watches and other wearable devices that monitor heart rates and physical activity, say the researchers.

“It’s like a Fitbit but has a biosensor that can count particles,” says Mehdi Javanmard, senior author of a study on the project and assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the School of Engineering. “So that includes blood cells, bacteria, and organic or inorganic particles in the air.”

Abbas Furniturewalla, lead author of the study and former undergraduate researcher in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering adds,”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.”

The plastic wristband comprises a flexible circuit board and a biosensor with a channel – or pipe – that is thinner than the diameter of a human hair with gold electrodes embedded inside. It has a circuit to process electrical signals, a microcontroller 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 an Android smartphone with an app that processes and displays data.


The technology, say the researchers, would enable offices and hospitals, health professionals to get rapid blood test results from patients, without the need for expensive, bulky lab-based equipment. Blood cell counts can be used to diagnose illness; for example, low red blood cell counts can be indicative of internal bleeding and other conditions.

“There’s a whole range of diseases where blood cell counts are very important,” says Javanmard. “Abnormally high or low white blood cell counts are indicators of certain cancers like leukemia, for example.”

Next-generation wristbands could be used in a variety of biomedical and environmental applications, the researchers say. Patients would be able to continuously monitor their health and send results to physicians remotely. In addition, in settings with lots of air pollutants, people may want to measure the amount of tiny particles or dust that they’re exposed to day in and day out.

Looking ahead, the researchers plan to evaluate the robustness of their platform by sampling data as it is being worn during activity, and adjust the circuit architecture, biosensor design, and overall packaging to reduce the effects of motion and environmental disturbance. In addition, they say, they would like to demonstrate the versatility of the system by testing across a range of biosensors and biomarkers.

For more, see “Fully integrated wearable impedance cytometry platform on flexible circuit board with online smartphone readout.”

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