Friday, February 28, 2014

iWatch May Monitor Heart Rate, Blood Oxygen; Apple Patents Health-Monitoring Headphones

The torrent of evidence for new products with a focus on health and fitness is astonishing, including a wide range of top experts Apple has hired. According to AppleInsider, a report last week in China's Electrical Engineering Times said that Apple is considering using optoelectronics in their rumored iWatch to monitor pulse and blood oxygen levels. This technology measures the changes in light reflected by the body. Light from small LEDs is projected onto one's finger, for example, and then the sensors measure the amount and color of the light reflected. From this it can determine how fast your heart is beating and how much oxygen saturation there is in your blood. Adding to the credibility of this report is the fact that Apple has hired experts in this area in recent weeks. Whether this technology is slated for an iWatch or other wearable device is unclear, but it appears likely that Apple is developing a product that will use it.

Interestingly, AppleInsider has also reported that Apple has a new patent for putting health-monitoring sensors in earbuds. The sensors would be able to monitor heart rate, perspiration level, temperature, and other measures. The patent also describes the incorporation of accelerometers that would be able to track the person's movement. In addition, the patent also says the accelerometers could be use to control the earbuds via head gestures. One could, for example, change tracks or adjust the volume of the music. Of course, many technologies described in patents are never developed, so we don't know if we'll actually see something like this. But it's more evidence of Apple's focus on health and fitness along with wearable devices.

Other evidence can be seen in various buyout rumors. TechCrunch reported on Sunday that Apple is rumored to be among the companies that have been in talks with a smartwatch company called Basis Science, which makes a health-tracking smartwatch. Even more intriguing is the report by SFGate that Apple has had discussions with Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, which makes a high-end electric automobile—a meeting that coincided with suggestions by market analysts that Apple buy the company.

The same report discusses Apple's heavy involvement in exploring medical devices, including a sensor that can predict heart attacks by monitoring the sound blood makes flowing through one's arteries.

All of this strongly indicates Apple is increasingly focused on health and fitness products and on wearable devices. The question is time frame. I'm guessing we won't see anything until late this year at the earliest.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rumor mill: Apple wants to use sensors to detect heart attacks


February 17th 2014

More rumors about the supposed iWatch emerged this weekend with reports that Apple is working on technology to detect when someone was about to have a heart attack.

Reports say that the hardware/software combo, rumored to be spearheaded by a renowned audio engineer from Lucasfilm, would listen to the sound of blood flowing through the wrist. If the software would detect that an artery was clogged with plaque, the watch would issue an alert.

The idea may sound great, but like Google’s would-be contact lens for diabetes, it’s hard to imagine it becoming a reality any time soon.

Cholesterol levels, blood pressure and lifestyle factors can give doctors an indication of a person’s risk of heart attack, but actually predicting one when it’s about to happen is a different story.

Not surprisingly, Apple isn’t even close to being the first one to think of it.

Recent efforts for such technology include Swiss researchers who made a splash last year when they introduced an implantable chip they were working on to monitor molecules in the blood to detect heart attacks hours before they happen. Scripps Health got a grant from Qualcomm in 2012 to conduct clinical trials of a similar nanosensor device.

On the noninvasive side of things, professors at Stanford University prototyped a wearable pressure sensor the size of a stamp that they say can monitor the two peaks of pulse waves, which might be helpful in monitoring heart health. A company called iHealth is also reportedly working with cardiologists on a modified blood pressure cuff that would monitor endothelial function as an indicator of heart attack or stroke. Then there’s AUM Cardiovascular, which is developing an acoustic device that primary care doctors would use to check for blockage in the coronary artery.

But none of these technologies has made it to the market yet.

One shimmer of hope for Apple lies in stories about how physicians using the mobile ECG app AliveCor have been able to diagnose heart conditions on the fly. But being able to learn about arteries through the skin, and develop algorithms that function like a doctor to identify when something’s awry, would be a big leap.

Other, more realistic rumored features of the iWatch include an integrative heart rate sensor and an app that would track blood pressure, heart rate and hydration levels.

Copyright 2014 MedCity News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A digital device in pivotal trials listens for the sound of a potential heart attack in the making

by Deanna Pogorelc,

February 18th 2014 4:07 PM

For Marie Johnson, coming up with a better way to detect coronary artery disease is both a business and a personal mission.

Johnson is CEO of AUM Cardiovascular, a Minnesota medical device company that’s developing a potentially cheaper, simpler, eight-minute test to detect signs of coronary artery disease — the primary cause of heart attack.

In a clinical study under way, the company is putting its Cadence device head-to-head against nuclear stress testing with the hope of showing that it’s just as effective at detecting obstructive coronary artery disease. If it can show that, Johnson expects to be able to launch the device in Europe in the second half of this year and in the U.S. next fall.

Johnson lost her 41-year-old husband to an unexpected heart attack in 2009. Although he was seemingly healthy, the autopsy revealed that several of his coronary arteries were blocked and that a plaque had ruptured in the left anterior descending vessel of his heart. Blockage in this vessel, nicknamed “the widowmaker,” is particularly associated with mortality.

Coincidentally, at the time, Johnson had been working with 3M scientists to develop a computerized stethoscope as part of her PhD program and had used the prototype device to collect hundreds of data points from the sound of her husband’s heart just a few months before.

That served as a launching pad for Johnson to begin developing a system comprising sensors and algorithms that could identify a certain acoustic signature associated with blockage of the coronary arteries. A small acoustic device about the size of an egg is pressed against a few different points on the chest. It uses sensors to listen for turbulence in blood flow through coronary vessels that suggest they could be blocked.

“The device is pretty simple – there are some advanced algorithms associated with noise and signal capture, but the real juice is in the algorithm where we analyze the data to provide the doctor with a reading of normal, diseased or inconclusive,” Johnson said.

When plaque buildup on the inner walls of the arteries reaches a certain point, patients may become a candidate for some kind of intervention to prevent worsening of the disease and heart attack. Johnson said AUM’s test can’t tell doctors exactly which vessel the blockage is in, but can give them an indication of whether further interrogation is warranted.

For the pivotal trial that’s going on now, the company is collecting data from 729 patients who present in one of 15 sites with chest pain and also have two or more coronary risk factors. They’re being tested with AUM’s device and with a nuclear stress test, a method of imaging that shows how blood is flowing into the heart.

“We can’t do everything that a nuclear stress test can do, but what we’re saying is that we’re not inferior in detecting obstructive coronary artery disease,” Johnson said.

A nuclear stress test costs on average somewhere around $1,000, Johnson explained, involves the use of a radiopharmaceutical and can take up to three hours. AUM’s device, she said, would have a price point around $200 per test and would deliver results in about eight minutes.

Data collection for the trial should wrap up by December, Johnson said, with a filing for FDA clearance likely to follow around this time next year, if all goes well. But first, AUM will tackle commercialization in Europe. Johnson expects the device to get CE Mark by July and launch in 10 centers in Europe by the end of the year.

She said the company, which was formed in 2009 and now has six full-time staffers, will be raising a round of funding to support the European launch soon.

Copyright 2014 MedCity News.